Nervous System Puts The Brakes on Inflammation

Source: Weill Cornell Medical College

Summary: According to a new research, cells in the nervous system can “put the brakes” on the immune response to infections in the gut and lungs to prevent excessive inflammation.

There is a crosstalk between the nervous system and the immune system, and that plays an important role in regulating acute and chronic inflammation. These two organ systems closely interact and play an important role in human health and disease. Researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College found that cells in the nervous system can “put the brakes” on the immune response to infections in the gut and lungs to prevent excessive inflammation. The study provides some clues about what might be going wrong in these diseases, which have become more common in industrialized countries, and in helminth infections, which are still a major public health problem in less-industrialized countries. It also may explain how some existing treatments for diseases like asthma work and point to new treatment strategies. The study findings were published in the journal Science.

Group 2 innate lymphoid cells

Color-enhanced image of a mouse intestine showing ILC2-dependent mucus production (purple) Credit: Dr. Saya Moriyama

For their study, the team examined communication between the nervous system and immune system during the kind of inflammatory response that is triggered by allergens or infections with parasites called helminths. Exposure to these agents causes a class of immune cells called group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) to release inflammatory molecules called cytokines that can promote increased mucus production and muscle contractions, all of which help to expel the parasite or allergen from the body. If these results are confirmed in humans, it could have very important implications for patients with asthma, allergies and other types of inflammatory diseases. The most commonly used drugs to treat asthma also stimulate the β2-adrenergic receptor, which may explain why they are so effective at controlling allergy symptoms.

Dr. David Artis said, “We must have given tens of millions of doses of these drugs to shut down the acute symptoms of asthma”, “If we understand more mechanistically how this class of drugs works, it might give us new avenues to develop additional therapies built around the biology.”

More Information: Saya Moriyama et al, “β2-adrenergic receptor-mediated negative regulation of group 2 innate lymphoid cell responses”, Science (2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4829

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