Brain Health,
Overdose Edition,

Overdose Edition #2: “Brain, Meet Lymphatic System” – A Biology Surprise

February 29, 2016

Hearing that a new part of the human body was discovered recently sounds like a hoax, right?

You mean that science was missing something for the past several hundred years?  It’s been centuries since da Vinci and the early anatomists had to pay grave robbers to pluck fresh cadavers so they could get a look at humanity’s inner workings.

And yet in late 2015, a discovery was made that will rewrite the anatomical textbooks for future generations.

The lymphatic system — a group of vessels that branch throughout the body (much like the circulatory system, minus a heart) to deliver white blood cells to fight infection and remove cellular wastes — had always been believed to come to a stop at the neck.

Like a circulatory map of the Headless Horseman, it was a head shorter than you’d think it would be.  And yes, it seemed a little strange that this major piece of the body’s immune system ignored the all-important brain…

…but the vessels simply didn’t seem to be there.  So, case closed.

Until 2015, when mouse studies in the lab of Professor Jonathan Kipnis made a paradigm-changing discovery.

They were thin. 

They were hard to find, and easily missed. 

They were damned near invisible. 

And yet there they were…

Lymphatic vessels reaching up into the head and arcing around the brain.

In this special Overdose Edition of Smart Drug Smarts, hear Professor Kipnis’ insights on his team’s discovery, its implications for brain health and conditions it might yield new treatments for, and promising avenues for further research.


  1. Andrew says:

    Just listened to this episode yesterday, and from what I recall Dr. Kipnis was thinking the lymphatic vessels output may be related to the sinuses. Then this article today (came across on Hacker News) about anticholinergic drugs being implicated with increased Alzheimer’s risk:

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Wow, scary finding. Never good to read “strong and possibly irreversible.” Thanks for sending this; I think I’ll get this in one of the next couple weeks as a belated-but-important This Week in Neuroscience.

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