A “Whole New World” of Lymphatic System Discovered

The Discovery

Recent findings at the University of Finland and UVA School of Medicine have overturned 300 years of accepted anatomical fact. Until recent years, the scientific community believed that the lymphatic system — which functions in the body to remove waste and toxins — did not extend into the human brain.

Then came Kari Alitalo. Kari desired a better map of the lymphatic vessels, so three years ago he dosed the lymph cells of mice with a glowing jellyfish gene. At the end of the experiment, he was shocked to see that the mice’s heads were glowing. To be certain his results were correct, he repeated the experiment. His repeat showed exactly the same phenomenon.

As it turns out, Kari had discovered what he termed to be the glymphatic system — the division of the lymphatic system that exists as “glia” cells in the brain.

The Glymphatic System

As it turns out, the glymphatic system may have major implications for degenerative diseases. It’s possible that Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases could be effected by dysfunction in the glymphatic system. A dysfunctional lymphatic system can lead to a buildup of toxins and waste in the body — and a dysfunctional glymphatic system may lead to a buildup of toxins in the brain.

Early studies at Yale and Oregon Health & Science University suggest that a functioning glymphatic system is essential to a healthy brain. Harvard has shown that glymphatic flow is decreased right before a migraine. Research has also shown that the glymphatic system works best when we are asleep, and that sleeping on your side is better than sleeping on your stomach or back.


It’s clear that this revolutionary anatomical discovery will have major impact for clinical therapies for all kinds of neurodegenerative diseases. Read the full article from the Washington Post here, and make sure to subscribe to our blog for the latest news and events across the biotech world.

Alzheimer’s PET Scan – US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center

Rethinking Lymphatic Development

Four studies identify alternative origins for cells of the developing lymphatic system, challenging the long-standing view that they all come from veins.


For 10 years, Karina Yaniv has worked to find out just how much zebrafish have in common with mice—at least when it comes to their lymphatic systems, the open-ended networks of vessels best known for draining fluids from tissues and providing thoroughfares for immune cells throughout the body. Yet in doing so she ended up discovering something that had very little in common with the findings of numerous earlier studies on other animals’ lymphatic systems. Contrary to the widely held view in developmental biology, she found, lymphatics don’t always originate from veins.

“It was scary—I’m a young PI, so it’s not easy to stand up against the stream,” says Yaniv, who studies developmental biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. But it turns out she isn’t the only one. Within three months of each other, two other independent groups published their unexpected findings supporting new roles for nonvenous progenitor cells in lymphatic development.


Link to full article on The Scientist