By scanning the brains of healthy volunteers, researchers at the National Institutes of Health saw the first, long-sought evidence that our brains may drain some waste out through lymphatic vessels, the body’s sewer system. The results further suggest the vessels could act as a pipeline between the brain and the immune system.
“We literally watched people’s brains drain fluid into these vessels,” said Daniel S. Reich, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the senior author of the study published online in eLife. “We hope that our results provide new insights to a variety of neurological disorders.” …
In 1816, an Italian anatomist reported finding lymphatic vessels on the surface of the brain, but for two centuries, it was forgotten. Until very recently, researchers in the modern era found no evidence of a lymphatic system in the brain, leaving some puzzled about how the brain drains waste, and others to conclude that brain is an exceptional organ. Then in 2015, two studies of mice found evidence of the brain’s lymphatic system in the dura. Coincidentally, that year, Dr. Reich saw a presentation by Jonathan Kipnis, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Virginia and an author of one the mouse studies.
“I was completely surprised. In medical school, we were taught that the brain has no lymphatic system,” said Dr. Reich. “After Dr. Kipnis’ talk, I thought, maybe we could find it in human brains?”
Scientific discovery, like all methods of discovering the nature and observable laws of our world, is a human endeavor. So, the fields of science are fundamentally as human as any branch of human inquiry. For years, students “were taught that the brain has no lymphatic system,” and now that’s changed—in this case, because we’ve rediscovered something that was discovered two centuries ago.
That outrageously misleading phrase “according to science,” so often used to mean “objectively true,” should be avoided at all costs. “According to science” often simply means “according to people,” and we often find that we were wrong. Worse, “according to science” eliminates the sort of thoughtful, nuanced thinking that’s necessary for meaningful discovery in the first place in any field of human inquiry.
It’s an example of politics warping language, and diminishing public thought.