Wednesday, June 3, 2015

VERY IMPORTANT DISCOVERY!!!! Missing link found between brain, immune system--with major disease implications

Implications profound for neurological diseases from autism to Alzheimer's to multiple sclerosis
  • Vessels directly connecting brain, lymphatic system exist despite decades of doctrine that they don't
  • Finding may have substantial implications for major neurological diseases
  • Game-changing discovery opens new areas of research, transforms existing ones
  • Major gap in understanding of the human body revealed
  • 'They'll have to change the textbooks'
In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer's disease to multiple sclerosis.
"Instead of asking, 'How do we study the immune response of the brain?' 'Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?' now we can approach this mechanistically. Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels," said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA's Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). "It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can't be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions."
"We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role," Kipnis said. "Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component."
New Discovery in Human Body
Kevin Lee, PhD, chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis' lab: "The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: 'They'll have to change the textbooks.' There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation - and they've done many studies since then to bolster the finding - that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system's relationship with the immune system."
Even Kipnis was skeptical initially. "I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped," he said. "I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not."
'Very Well Hidden'
The discovery was made possible by the work of Antoine Louveau, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Kipnis' lab. The vessels were detected after Louveau developed a method to mount a mouse's meninges - the membranes covering the brain - on a single slide so that they could be examined as a whole. "It was fairly easy, actually," he said. "There was one trick: We fixed the meninges within the skullcap, so that the tissue is secured in its physiological condition, and then we dissected it. If we had done it the other way around, it wouldn't have worked."
After noticing vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells on his slides, he tested for lymphatic vessels and there they were. The impossible existed. The soft-spoken Louveau recalled the moment: "I called Jony [Kipnis] to the microscope and I said, 'I think we have something.'"
As to how the brain's lymphatic vessels managed to escape notice all this time, Kipnis described them as "very well hidden" and noted that they follow a major blood vessel down into the sinuses, an area difficult to image. "It's so close to the blood vessel, you just miss it," he said. "If you don't know what you're after, you just miss it."
"Live imaging of these vessels was crucial to demonstrate their function, and it would not be possible without collaboration with Tajie Harris," Kipnis noted. Harris, a PhD, is an assistant professor of neuroscience and a member of the BIG center. Kipnis also saluted the "phenomenal" surgical skills of Igor Smirnov, a research associate in the Kipnis lab whose work was critical to the imaging success of the study.
Alzheimer's, Autism, MS and Beyond
The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises a tremendous number of questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it. For example, take Alzheimer's disease. "In Alzheimer's, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain," Kipnis said. "We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they're not being efficiently removed by these vessels." He noted that the vessels look different with age, so the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore. And there's an enormous array of other neurological diseases, from autism to multiple sclerosis, that must be reconsidered in light of the presence of something science insisted did not exist.
The New Map of the Lymphatic System
Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA's discovery.
Credit: University of Virginia Health System

Monday, May 11, 2015

Researchers organize to decipher possible role of gut bacteria in autism

Autism : for a condition that continues to confound researchers and physicians alike, Dr. Richard E. Frye, Director of Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) autism research program, believes that research into the role of the microbiome could hold a key to new treatments and understanding of autism. Last summer, Dr. Frye led a group of international, pioneering physicians and scientists, as well as parents, at the 1st International Symposium on the Microbiome in Health and Disease with a Special Focus on Autism. At this historic conference autism researchers called for a new frontier in science and autism research: the connection between the enteric (gut) microbiome and autism. "Mounting evidence shows us that there is a link between the gut and brain; that the gut may have previously under-recognized influences on cognition and possibly even behavior," said Dr. Frye, a leading autism researcher who serves as Director of both ACH's Integrated Autism Research Program and Autism Multispecialty Clinic. "Several lines of research also point to the possibility that changes in the gut either cause or are highly associated with driving core ASD (autism spectrum disorder) symptoms." The microbiome-autism connection is one of several promising avenues being examined as part of their integrated research program at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute. The gathering included a first-of-its-kind conference to discuss topics related to autism and the microbiome, as well as a separate interdisciplinary working group session that examined how to best design a clinical trial to further elucidate the potential role of the microbiome in autism. The results of the meeting have been published as a collection of articles in the international, peer-reviewed journal "Microbial Ecology in Heath and Disease". Dr. Frye is co-author of multiple articles in the special issue, including one that came directly out of the working group session being published today titled: "Approaches to Studying and Manipulating the Enteric Microbiome to Improve Autism Symptoms.".... see more

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Father inspired after child's autism improved by course of antibiotic

A parent has been prompted to investigate the connections between gut bacteria and autism following surprising improvements in his son's autism while taking an antibiotic for strep throat.

Amoxicillin capsules.
Amoxicillin is a form of penicillin and is frequently used to treat bacterial infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia and tonsillitis.
John Rodakis' son was prescribed a 10-day course ofamoxicillin, one of the most frequently used  antibiotics in the US, and within just 4 days of commencing the treatment, changes were observed in his autism symptoms.
"[He] began making eye contact, which he had previously avoided; his speech, which was severely delayed, began to improve markedly; he became less 'rigid' in his insistence for sameness and routine; and he also displayed an uncharacteristic level of energy, which he had historically lacked," explains Rodakis.
In an article published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, Rodakis describes this unexpected turn of events and the journey of discovery he has since embarked upon, as he attempts to understand what caused his son's symptoms to change.
It became apparent to him early in his investigation that many other parents had experienced similar changes following courses of antibiotics, with some even routinely giving their autistic children antibiotics in order to improve their symptoms.
As well as these positive experiences, Rodakis also notes that some parents found their children's symptoms worsened under the influence of the medicine. "In my view, these stories are not contradictory but rather reinforce the notion that an antibiotic can create an effect in autism," writes Rodakis..... read more