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Development of cerebrospinal fluid absorption sites in the pig and rat: connections between the subarachnoid space and lymphatic vessels in the olfactory turbinates

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The textbook view that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) absorption occurs mainly through the arachnoid granulations and villi is being challenged by quantitative and qualitative studies that support a major role for the lymphatic circulation in CSF transport. There are many potential sites at which lymphatics may gain access to CSF but the primary pathway involves the movement of CSF through the cribriform plate foramina in association with the olfactory nerves. Lymphatics encircle the nerve trunks on the extracranial surface of the cribriform plate and absorb CSF. However, the time during development in which the CSF compartment and extracranial lymphatic vessels connect anatomically is unclear. In this report, CSF–lymphatic connections were investigated using the silastic material Microfil and a soluble Evan’s blue-protein complex in two species; one in which significant CSF synthesis by the choroid plexus begins before birth (pigs) and one in which CSF secretion is markedly up regulated within the first weeks after birth (rats). We examined a total of 46 pig fetuses at embryonic (E) day E80–81, E92, E101, E110 (birth at 114 days). In rats, we investigated a total of 115 animals at E21 (birth at 21 days), postnatal (P) day P1–P9, P12, P13, P15, P22, and adults. In pigs, CSF–lymphatic connections were observed in the prenatal period as early as E92. Before this time (E80–81 fetuses) CSF–lymphatic connections did not appear to exist. In rats, these associations were not obvious until about a week after birth. These data suggest that the ability of extracranial lymphatic vessels to absorb CSF develops around the time that significant volumes of CSF are being produced by the choroid plexus and further support an important role for lymphatic vessels in CSF transport.

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We wish to thank Tom Parkermio, Verne Wideman, Nancy Waddell, and Brad Rogers (Manager) of the Arkell Swine Unit, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario for their help in support of the pig studies. This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and a CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship to L. Koh.

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Correspondence to Miles Johnston.

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Koh, L., Zakharov, A., Nagra, G. et al. Development of cerebrospinal fluid absorption sites in the pig and rat: connections between the subarachnoid space and lymphatic vessels in the olfactory turbinates. Anat Embryol 211, 335–344 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-006-0085-1

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  • Arachnoid granulations and villi
  • Cribriform plate
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Olfactory nerves
  • Pseudotumor cerebri