Info: Signals From Nervous System Influence Immune System 
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 Info: Signals From Nervous System Influence Immune System

Signals From Nervous System Influence Immune System  

2001 DEC 12 - ( -- In a discovery that demonstrates a clear
link between the mind and body at the molecular level, scientists have
shown that a chemical signal that normally allows nerve cells to
communicate with each other - to alter sleep cycles, for example - can
also redirect actions of the immune system.

The research in mice confirms mounting evidence from studies of
cultured cells that the nervous system directly influences the immune
system. It has prompted new experiments to determine if the
nerve-generated signal or its receptors in the immune system might
make good drug targets to control asthma or allergies.

"This is the first clue of a practical pharmacological approach to
using the nervous system for both improving immune defenses and
damping harmful immune responses at their roots in diseases as diverse
as arthritis and asthma," said Edward Goetzl, MD, professor of
medicine and immunology at the University of California, San

Goetzl is lead author on a scientific paper on the research in the
November 20, 2001, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences USA. The work is a collaboration between UCSF and the
University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Goetzl is also senior author on a
companion paper on the research in the Federation of the American
Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.

The finding is based on experiments with "knockout" mice whose immune
cells can't receive the normal neuropeptide signal known as vasoactive
intestinal peptide, or VIP.

In the nervous system, VIP normally stimulates nerve cell signaling
and survival, and regulates neural biological clocks. The scientists
found that VIP also affects the migration of the immune system's T
cells and T cell secretion of protein signals for other immune cells,
both of which are central to the body's normal defense against
infection. Through its action on T cells, VIP can affect the process
in which the immune system turns against the body, such as in asthma
and arthritis.

In the PNAS paper and in the companion paper in the FASEB Journal, the
researchers showed that the strength of the VIP signal received by the
T cells regulates the balance between two types of immune T cells, Th1
and Th2. Th1 is normally involved with protection from bacterial
invasion and other defenses, but Th1 in excess can lead to autoimmune
disorders. Th2 protects from parasitic infections and autoimmunity,
but in excess can lead to allergies.

The researchers discovered the effect of VIP on the Th1/Th2 balance by
examining the relative production of the Th cells' protein products,
known as cytokines. When the balance is tipped toward Th1 in knockout
mice lacking a critical form of a VIP receptor, allergy is suppressed
and resistance to some types of infections is boosted, along with
other reactions, they found.

The research did not determine if the impact of the neuropeptide VIP
is sufficient to change the course of infections, inflammation or
autoimmune disease in which T cells are involved.

The researchers caution that VIP has such broad effects on immune
function that blocking its action with {*filter*} might risk triggering one
kind of immune malady while it relieves another. However, the new
findings clearly demonstrate the potential of neuroregulation of T
cell functions and suggest the potential value of developing VIP-like
{*filter*} with greater immune selection than VIP itself, Goetzl added.

Senior author on the PNAS paper is Anthony Harmar, PhD, professor of
neurosciences at University of Edinburgh. Coauthors are postdoct{*filter*}
fellows Julia K. Voice, PhD, and Glenn Dorsam, PhD, in the UCSF
medicine and immunology departments; and Yvonne Kong, research
assistant in the same departments. Also on the study are postdoct{*filter*}
fellows Sanbing Shen, PhD; Katrine M. West, PhD; and Christine F.
Morrison, PhD, all at University of Edinburgh.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the
Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom.

This article was prepared by Immunotherapy Weekly editors from staff
and other reports. Copyright 2001, Immunotherapy Weekly via

Thu, 03 Jun 2004 06:58:05 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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