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Clues in the skull to treat brain diseases

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Immune cells in the bone marrow of the skull could provide new ways to diagnose and treat neurological diseases, recent research in mice and human tissues has shown.

Brain inflammation is a common hallmark of many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis, and can be triggered by the body’s immune system. However, inflammation is difficult to treat due to the barrier to the brain from the skull and surrounding membranes.

A study at EARA member Helmholtz Munich, along with the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Technical University of Munich, all Germany, imaged and analysed the skulls and brain tissue of mice and human skulls.

Researchers found that the skull possesses unique molecules and cells not found in other bones in the body, including unique forms of immune cells called neutrophils, which are vital in the defence against infection and injury.

In addition, they showed that connections between the skull’s bone marrow and brain, that allow immune cells to pass back and forth, can pass through even the thickest outer layer of membrane that surrounds the brain.

Prof Ali Ertürk, at Helmholtz, said: “This opens up a myriad of possibilities for diagnosing and treating brain diseases and has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of neurological diseases."


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