Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Direct Route From The Brain To The Immune System Discovered

Date:
October 24, 2007
Source:
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System
Summary:
It used to be dogma that the brain was shut away from the actions of the immune system, shielded from the outside forces of nature. But that's not how it is at all. In fact, new scientific detective work shows that the brain talks directly to the immune system, sending commands that control the body's inflammatory response to infection and autoimmune diseases.

It used to be dogma that the brain was shut away from the actions of the immune system, shielded from the outside forces of nature. But that's not how it is at all. In fact, thanks to the scientific detective work of Kevin Tracey, MD, it turns out that the brain talks directly to the immune system, sending commands that control the body's inflammatory response to infection and autoimmune diseases. Understanding the intimate relationship is leading to a novel way to treat diseases triggered by a dangerous inflammatory response.

Dr. Tracey, director and chief executive of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, will be giving the 2007 Stetten Lecture on Oct. 24, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. His talk -- Physiology and Immunology of the Cholinergic Anti-inflammatory Pathway -- will highlight the discoveries made in his laboratory and the clinical trials underway to test the theory that stimulation of the vagus nerve could block a rogue inflammatory response and treat a number of diseases, including life-threatening sepsis.

With this new understanding of the vagus nerve's role in regulating inflammation, scientists believe that they can tap into the body's natural healing defenses and calm the sepsis storm before it wipes out its victims. Each year, 750,000 people in the United States develop severe sepsis, and 215,000 will die no matter how hard doctors fight to save them. Sepsis is triggered by the body's own overpowering immune response to a systemic infection, and hospitals are the battlegrounds for these potentially lethal conditions.

The vagus nerve is located in the brainstem and snakes down from the brain to the heart and on through to the abdomen. Dr. Tracey and others are now studying ways of altering the brain's response or targeting the immune system itself as a way to control diseases.

Dr. Tracey is a neurosurgeon who came into research through the back door of the operating room. More than two decades ago, he was treating a young girl whose body had been accidentally scorched by boiling water and she was fighting for her life to overcome sepsis. She didn't make it. Dr. Tracey headed into the laboratory to figure out why the body makes its own cells that can do fatal damage.

Dr. Tracey discovered that the vagus nerve speaks directly to the immune system through a neurochemical called acetylcholine. And stimulating the vagus nerve sent commands to the immune system to stop pumping out toxic inflammatory markers. "This was so surprising to us," said Dr. Tracey, who immediately saw the potential to use vagus stimulation as a way to shut off abnormal immune system responses. He calls this network "the inflammatory reflex."

Research is now underway to see whether tweaking the brain's acetylcholine system could be a natural way to control the inflammatory response. Inflammation is key to many diseases - from autoimmune conditions like Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's, where scientists have identified a strong inflammatory component.

Dr. Tracey has presented his work to the Dalai Lama, who has shown a great interest in the neurosciences and the mind-body connection. He has also written a book called "Fatal Sequence," about the double-edge sword of the immune system.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. "Direct Route From The Brain To The Immune System Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024083630.htm>.
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. (2007, October 24). Direct Route From The Brain To The Immune System Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024083630.htm
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. "Direct Route From The Brain To The Immune System Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024083630.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins