Medical Research

Immunity and the Nervous System

Kristen Sparrow • May 10, 2015

Kevin Tracey is the researcher using implantable electrodes to stimulate the vagus nerve to damp down the hyperimmune response in rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions.  This is the abstract from a talk at Cold Springs Harbor.  Since acupuncture cured my allergies, I looked for a biomarker for treatment and have been measuring heart rate variability in conjunction with acupuncture.  Heart rate variability is a measure of vagal activity, and I remain convinced that vagal stimulation is one of the mechanisms of acupuncture effectiveness.
Implantable electrical stimulation devices may or may not prove to be more elegant than acupuncture, but I am maintaining an open mind.Scientific American bioelectricity
Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2014 Nov 6;7(2):a016360. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a016360.

Approaching the next revolution? Evolutionary integration of neural and immune pathogen sensing and response.
Mammalian immunity evolved by the process of natural selection that produced differential survival and reproduction advantages through combinations of hereditary traits underlying the response to pathogens. Primitive animals sense the presence of microbial pathogens through recognition of pathogen-derived molecules in their rudimentary immune and nervous systems. No molecular biological mechanism assigns primacy of pathogen sensing mechanisms to immune cells over neurons. Rather, in animals as diverse as Caenorhabditis elegans to mammals, neural reflexes are activated by the presence of pathogens and transduce neural mechanisms that control the development of immunity. A coming revolution in immunological thinking will require immunologists to incorporate neural circuits into understanding pathogen signal transduction, and the molecular mechanisms of learning, that culminate in immunity.