Scientists have just discovered a whole new layer in the anatomy of the brain

The human brain is an incred­i­bly com­plex organ, and its secrets are not eas­i­ly revealed.

Advances in imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy are con­tin­u­al­ly reveal­ing hid­den forms and func­tions of neu­roanato­my, includ­ing new types of nerve cells and entire­ly new tis­sue nodules.

Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ties of Copen­hagen and Rochester have now iden­ti­fied lay­ers of neu­rons in the brain.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester has dis­cov­ered a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­tin­guished lay­er of tis­sue that pro­tects gray and white matter.

Only a few cells thick, this mem­brane appears to medi­ate the exchange of small dis­solved sub­stances between brain compartments.

It also appears to under­pin spe­cif­ic immune cells in the brain, as well as help the brain’s waste dis­pos­al sys­tem (glym­phat­ic).

Mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist Kjeld Møll­gård and col­leagues at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Copen­hagen have named this dis­cov­ery the ‘sub­arach­noid lym­phat­ic mem­brane (SLYM)’.

Much of the research on this struc­ture has so far been done in mice using two-pho­ton microscopy and dis­sec­tion, but the pres­ence of SLYM in the adult human brain has now been confirmed.

SLYM is locat­ed between two oth­er mem­branes that pro­tect the brain. It is known that there are a total of four mem­branes that cov­er the brain, divid­ing the cere­brospinal flu­id space into two.

It appears to func­tion as a bar­ri­er to cere­brospinal flu­id mol­e­cules larg­er than 3 kilo­dal­tons, com­pa­ra­ble to very small proteins.

Unlike oth­er parts of the body, the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem does not have lym­phat­ic (immune) ves­sels, and is regard­ed as an “immunos­tim­u­la­to­ry site,” which refers to places such as the eyes and testes where immune reac­tions are strict­ly controlled.

So the researchers sus­pect that cere­brospinal flu­id picks up some of the work of the immune sys­tem in the brain. The exis­tence of SLYM may explain this mechanism.

“The dis­cov­ery of a new anatom­i­cal struc­ture that secretes and reg­u­lates the flow of cere­brospinal flu­id (CSF) allows CSF to trans­port and remove waste prod­ucts from the brain,” said Mayken Ned­er­gaard, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester.

Not only that, but it is becom­ing more clear that it plays a sophis­ti­cat­ed role in sup­port­ing the brain’s immune defenses.”

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