Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

T cells making brain chemicals may lead to better treatments for inflammation, autoimmune diseases

Date:
September 17, 2011
Source:
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
Summary:
Scientists have identified a surprising new role for a new type of T cell in the immune system: some of them can be activated by nerves to make a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) that blocks inflammation. The discovery of these T cells is novel and suggests that it may be possible to treat inflammation and autoimmune diseases by targeting the nerves and the T cells.

Scientists have identified a surprising new role for a new type of T cell in the immune system: some of them can be activated by nerves to make a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) that blocks inflammation. The discovery of these T cells is novel and suggests that it may be possible to treat inflammation and autoimmune diseases by targeting the nerves and the T cells.

The study was published this week in Science.

"The discovery that 2 percent of T cells can make acetylcholine under the control of nerves gives a new insight into how the nervous system regulates immunity," said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and chief executive officer of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and principal investigator of the study. "The arrival of electrical signals from nerves activates these specialized T cells to produce the acetylcholine necessary to block inflammation, and protect against damage. It is possible to transfer these cells to cross-protect mice from inflammation, and to control these T cells by electrically stimulating the nerves directly."

The present study followed years of work from Dr. Tracey's lab that identified the role of the vagus nerve, named for its wandering course from the base of the brain to the liver, spleen and other organs, in blocking inflammation. Applying electrodes to stimulate the vagus nerve blocked the release of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and other cytokines that underlie the tissue damage in arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and other syndromes. Stimulating this nerve pathway led to increased production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that binds to the alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Activating this receptor on macrophages blocked the release of immune molecules (the cytokines,) suggesting a novel strategy for developing anti-inflammatory agents.

But these results raised an important question because the nerve fibers in spleen release norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter, but not acetylcholine. The search for the cells that produce acetylcholine led these investigators to use "nude" mice, devoid of T cells. Then they examined the spleen cells that make acetylcholine and that led them to a subset of T cells. Transferring these acetylcholine producing T-cells into nude mice restored the vagus nerve circuit that blocked inflammation.

"Our results point to a population of acetylcholine-synthesizing memory T cells in spleen that is integral to the function of the inflammatory reflex, the nerve circuit that regulates inflammation and immunity," said Dr. Tracey. "It is as if these T cells occupy a nerve-like function in this important circuit."

It should be possible to target these T cells and to modulate this neural circuitry to develop therapeutic modalities for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In the future, it may be possible to isolate these T cells and exploit their anti-inflammatory activity. In the meantime, there is a more direct route to use this discovery for therapy. Rheumatoid arthritis patients in Europe are being studied in clinical trials where vagus nerve stimulators are implanted and turned on to stimulate this circuit and suppress inflammation.


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.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Rosas-Ballina, P. S. Olofsson, M. Ochani, S. I. Valdes-Ferrer, Y. A. Levine, C. Reardon, M. W. Tusche, V. A. Pavlov, U. Andersson, S. Chavan, T. W. Mak, K. J. Tracey. Acetylcholine-Synthesizing T Cells Relay Neural Signals in a Vagus Nerve Circuit. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1209985

Cite This Page:

North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. "T cells making brain chemicals may lead to better treatments for inflammation, autoimmune diseases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110916121143.htm>.
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. (2011, September 17). T cells making brain chemicals may lead to better treatments for inflammation, autoimmune diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110916121143.htm
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. "T cells making brain chemicals may lead to better treatments for inflammation, autoimmune diseases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110916121143.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
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