A shocking discovery about the human brain made at the University of Virginia School of Medicine is being hailed as one of 2015's biggest scientific breakthroughs by numerous year-end lists, including those compiled by Scientific American, Science, The Huffington Post and the National Institutes of Health.
The discovery revealed that that the brain has a direct connection to the immune system — a connection long thought not to exist. "Though abnormal immune activity had been associated with psychiatric conditions in the past, scientists believed the brain's immune system to be separate from the body's," the editors of Scientific American noted in their listing of the Top 10 Science Stories of 2015. "This new finding suggests that malfunction in these vessels could contribute to a variety of neurological diseases with an immune component including Alzheimer's and autism."
Other accolades for UVA's discovery include:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) featured the finding in its Noteworthy Advances in Basic Research recognizing "the research accomplishments made by NIH-supported scientists in 2015."
NIH Director Francis Collins featured the work as part of Happy New Year … and a Look Back at a Memorable 2015. The blog post reviews NIH-funded work that was honored by Science, one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals, in its list of finalists for Breakthrough of the Year.
The Huffington Post named the discovery one of Eight Fascinating Things We Learned About the Mind in 2015.
Read more about the discovery, made by Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, and Antoine Louveau, PhD, and their colleagues. Kipnis is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA's Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). Louveau was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab at the time of the discovery and has since become a research scientist.