Guardians of the brain: how a special immune system protects our grey matter

The nervous and immune systems are tightly intertwined. Deciphering their chatter might help address many brain disorders and diseases.

Diana Kwon

Nature | June 01, 2022

The brain’s immune system includes a network of transport vessels (blue) and its own immune cells made in the bone marrow (green). Credit: Siling Du, Kipnis lab, Washington University in St. Louis

The brain is the body’s sovereign, and receives protection in keeping with its high status. Its cells are long-lived and shelter inside a fearsome fortification called the blood–brain barrier. For a long time, scientists thought that the brain was completely cut off from the chaos of the rest of the body — especially its eager defence system, a mass of immune cells that battle infections and whose actions could threaten a ruler caught in the crossfire.

In the past decade, however, scientists have discovered that the job of protecting the brain isn’t as straightforward as they thought. They’ve learnt that its fortifications have gateways and gaps, and that its borders are bustling with active immune cells.

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The Right to Healthy Food: Comorbidities and COVID-19

by Colin Todhunter

Dissident Voice | January 15, 2022

In early 2020, we saw the beginning of the COVID-19 ‘pandemic’. The world went into lockdown and even after lockdowns in various countries had been lifted, restrictions continued. Data now shows that lockdowns seemingly had limited, if any, positive impacts on the trajectory of COVID-19 and in 2022 the world – especially the poor – is paying an immense price not least in terms of loss of income, loss of livelihoods, the deterioration of mental and physical health, the eradication of civil liberties, disrupted supply chains and shortages.

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Kids and COVID: why young immune systems are still on top

Innate immunity might be the key to why children have fared better with the virus. But the Delta variant poses fresh unknowns.

Smriti Mallapaty

Nature | September 07, 2021

Children and adults play with bubbles in a park in a built up area of New York
After extremely low case rates in New York City early this summer, the number of children testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 has begun to rise. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

Early last year, children’s hospitals across New York City had to pivot to deal with a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. “We all had to quickly learn — or semi-learn — how to take care of adults,” says Betsy Herold, a paediatric infectious-disease physician who heads a virology laboratory at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The reason: while hospitals across the city were bursting with patients, paediatric wards were relatively quiet. Children were somehow protected from the worst of the disease.

Data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from hospitals across the country suggest that people under the age of 18 have accounted for less than 2% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 — a total of 3,649 children between March 2020 and late August 2021. Some children do get very sick, and more than 420 have died in the United States, but the majority of those with severe illness have been adults — a trend that has been borne out in many parts of the world.

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Missing link found between brain, immune system; major disease implications

Courtesy: ScienceDaily

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.Read More »