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University of Virginia scientists have discovered a brain-immune system link (Credit: Morguefile)

In a ground-breaking discovery that upends brain science, University of Virgina researchers have discovered secret vessels that apparently link the brain directly to the immune system. The discovery could have a monumental impact on searches for cures for neurological diseases like autism, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis, reports UVA Today.

"We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role," said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in the university's Department of Neuroscience. It's "hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a neurological disease with an immune component," he added.

What's particularly surprising about the finding is that scientists believed that the lymphatic system throughout the body had already been completely mapped.

"There has never been a known lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system's relationship with the immune system," said Kevin Lee, head of the Department of Neuroscience.

The network of vessels was detected with a special treatment and examination of a mouse's meninges – the membranes covering the brain. Vessel-like patterns were seen in the distribution of immune cells on microscopic slides of the meninges. When a researcher tested for lymphatic vessels, there they were.