Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How The Immune System And Brain Communicate To Control Disease

Date:
July 22, 2008
Source:
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
Summary:
In a major step in understanding how the nervous system and the immune system interact, scientists have identified a new anatomical path through which the brain and the spleen communicate. The spleen, once thought to be an unnecessary bit of tissue, is now regarded as an organ where important information from the nervous reaches the immune system. Understanding this process could ultimately lead to treatments that target the spleen to send the right message when fighting human disease.

In a major step in understanding how the nervous system and the immune system interact, scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have identified a new anatomical path through which the brain and the spleen communicate.

The spleen, once thought to be an unnecessary bit of tissue, is now regarded as an organ where important information from the nervous reaches the immune system. Understanding this process could ultimately lead to treatments that target the spleen to send the right message when fighting human disease.

Mauricio Rosas-Ballina, MD, working with colleagues in the laboratory of Kevin J. Tracey, MD, figured out that macrophages in the spleen were making tumor necrosis factor, a powerful inflammation-producing molecule. When they stimulated the vagus nerve, a long nerve that goes from the base of the brain into thoracic and abdominal organs, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production in the spleen decreased. This study complements previous research performed in Dr. Tracey's laboratory, which showed that stimulation of the vagus nerve increases survival in laboratory models of sepsis.

The findings were published July 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Many laboratories at The Feinstein Institute study the immune system in health and in disease. Every year, about 500,000 people develop severe sepsis, a syndrome triggered when the body's immune system wages an attack on the body that is well beyond its normal response to an invader. Sepsis kills about 225,000 deaths in the United States each year.

A hundred years ago, the spleen (located in the upper quadrant of the abdomen) was thought to be only reservoir for blood. It has only been in recent years that scientists discovered that the spleen is a manufacturing plant for immune cells, and a site where immune cells and nerves interact. The spleen defends the body against infection, particularly encapsulated bacteria that circulate through the blood.

The hope is to modulate other immune functions like antibody production through the spleen (via vagus nerve stimulation) as a way to modify the course of infections and possibly some autoimmune disorders.

Dr. Rosas-Ballina began following the winding path of the vagus nerve to establish the route it follows to reach the spleen. He was trying, without much luck, to find fibers of the vagus nerve in this organ. And then he went a little further south to the splenic nerve, the nerve that innervates the spleen. Their results indicate that the vagus nerve inherently communicates with the splenic nerve to suppress TNF production by macrophages in the spleen.

According to the prevailing paradigm, the autonomic nervous system is anatomically and functionally divided in sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, which act in opposition to regulate organ function. "The division between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems is not clear cut," said Dr. Rosas-Ballina, explaining that the vagus nerve (the major parasympathetic nerve) acts through the splenic nerve to modulate immune function. He said that results of this study suggest that there may be two separate ways the brain communicates with the spleen to regulate immune function. This points the way to a possible solution for treating sepsis. It may be more effective to take advantage of the central nervous system to control cells of the spleen. This way, "you know where the treatment is going," said Dr. Rosas-Ballina.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. "How The Immune System And Brain Communicate To Control Disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080721173748.htm>.
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. (2008, July 22). How The Immune System And Brain Communicate To Control Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080721173748.htm
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. "How The Immune System And Brain Communicate To Control Disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080721173748.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 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