If you didn’t regularly empty your bins, waste would soon build up and cause all sorts of problems. It’s the same in the body, so a sprawling network of lymphatic vessels acts as a waste-disposal highway, absorbing and removing unwanted excess released by cells and tissues. But this network doesn’t reach the brain – or so we thought. Researchers have recently discovered lymphatic vessels in the thin film around the brain – the dura mater. Identifying these vital structures in brain scans is tricky as they look so much like blood vessels, and are heavily outnumbered. The scientists identified them using a special dye that seeps out of blood vessels and is absorbed into the lymphatic system, shown here in green in the scan of an adult woman’s skull. Revealing this previously hidden route of waste disposal opens the door to investigate its role in brain disease and ageing.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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