Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have found that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. This startling discovery could drastically change the treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis. The vessels, which had previously escaped detection in the lymphatic system, were discovered after researchers developed a method to mount a mouse’s meninges (the membranes covering the brain) to a single slide so that they could be examined as a whole. The finding of these lymphatic vessels raises many questions to the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it. Jonathan Kipnis, PHD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and GLIA (BIG) says, “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We have always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.” Researchers are hopeful that this enormous discovery will help scientist to better understand neurological diseases such as autism and multiple sclerosis, which will ultimately result in better treatment methods.