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Fluid, Concussion and Structure!
Max Planck researchers visualize cilia-based networks in the brain, which could transport vital messenger substances.
All of us have bumped our heads here and there in a mostly harmless fashion. Some of us have suffered a concussion or more than one, which may have damaged some sensitive structures within our brain . Our brain has fluid filled chambers that help protect us from these minor knocks and pad our sensitive nervous system. The fluid is cerebral fluid and this serves as protection, removes waste, provides nutrients and transports messenger substances. Sounds pretty important, right?
Well scientists have only just discovered tiny cilia (hairs) on certain cell surfaces may be responsible for creating complex and dynamic “flows” in this fluid which send messages exactly to where they are needed. Thousands of these hairs in your brain beating in unison create powerful currents.
researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, succeeded in making the complex network of these flows visible. The researchers concentrated on the ventricle (fluid filled chamber), which is embedded in the hypothalamus.
“The hypothalamus is a very important control center, regulating functions like the circulatory system, body temperature, sexual behavior, food intake, and hormonal balance. To our surprise, there is a sophisticated transport system to and from the hypothalamus for distributing messenger substances via cerebral fluid,”
“In these images, we can see a complex network of fluid paths inside the cerebral ventricle. However, in contrast to the blood which flows through our blood vessels, these paths are not confined by walls. The exciting question for us was therefore: Is the flow pattern created solely by the synchronized beating of the cilia?”
The researchers filmed the flows. “Our experiments have shown that the flows are actually generated solely by the movements of the cilia. These act like conveyor belts and would therefore be an ideal means of transporting messenger substances to the right place in the brain,”
Ability to change flow directions
The fluid paths are not rigid like the road our cars travel on, rather the cilia changed the direction of fluid by changing rhythmically the beating of the hairs. This came as a big surprise as the prevalent school of thought was that the direction of hair beating cannot be changed.
“In the cerebral fluid of humans, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of physiologically active substances,” they explain. “We are assuming that the network of flows we discovered plays an important role in distributing these substances. In other experiments, we would like to look at which messenger substances are transported via the flows, and where these are ultimately deposited in the tissue”.
Now imagine the damage to structures within this delicate system after a hard enough knock to generate a concussion. It is not difficult to imagine how a concussion or several concussions can have a major impact on a structure such as cilia and their function. If the hairs are damaged then their function is decreased , hampered or stopped all together and by deduction we can say that the messages can now no longer be functioning optimally.
In regards to structure the cerebrospinal fluid system is contained within your spine and skull. If this fluid is communicating optimally through functioning and beating cillia the the structures surrounding the fluid are of utmost importance in order to allow that flow of fluid to go where it is supposed to go, without constraint or divergence.
A great question to ask is how far away from normal spinal structure do you have to get before secondary conditions such as decreased cerebrospinal flow occurs?
Source: Dr. Gregor Eichele – Max Planck Institute
Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to MPI f. Biophysical Chemistry/ R. Faubel, H. Sebesse.
Original Research: Abstract for “Cilia-based flow networks in the brain ventricles” by Regina Faubel, Christian Westendorf, Eberhard Bodenschatz, and Gregor Eichele in Science. Published online July 7 2016 doi:10.1126/science.aae0450
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