The olfactory route for cerebrospinal fluid drainage into the peripheral lymphatic system

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Drainage of the cerebrospinal fluid through the olfactory nerves into the nasal lymphatics has been suggested repeatedly. To investigate precisely the morphology of this pathway, India ink was injected into the subarachnoidal space of the rat brain, and samples including the olfactory bulbs, olfactory tracts and the nasal mucosa were observed by light and electron microscopy. Under the dissecting microscope, ink particles were found within the subarachnoid space and along the olfactory nerves. At the nasal mucosa, a lymphatic network stained in black was identified near the olfactory nerves, which finally emptied into the superficial and deep cervical lymph nodes. Light microscopically, ink particles were found in the subarachnoid space, partially distributed around the olfactory nerves and within the lymphatic vessels. By electron microscopy, the subarachnoid space often formed a pocket-like space in the entrance of the fila olfactoria. The olfactory nerves were partially surrounded by ink particles within the space between perineurial cells and epineurial fibroblasts. At the nasal mucosa, the lymphatics were frequently located close to the nerves. These results indicate that the cerebrospinal fluid drains from the subarachnoid space along the olfactory nerves to the nasal lymphatics, which in turn, empties into the cervical lymph nodes. This anatomical communication, thus, allows the central nervous system to connect with the lymphatic system. The presence of this route may play an important role in the movement of antigens from the subarachnoidal space to the extracranial lymphatic vessels, resulting in inducement of an immune response of the central nervous system.

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