The field of immunology is principally focused on the molecular mechanisms by which hematopoietic cells initiate and maintain innate and adaptive immunity. That cornerstone of attention has been expanded by recent discoveries that neuronal signals occupy a critical regulatory niche in immunity. The discovery is that neuronal circuits operating reflexively regulate innate and adaptive immunity. One particularly well-characterized circuit regulating innate immunity, the inflammatory reflex, is dependent upon action potentials transmitted to the reticuloendothelial system via the vagus and splenic nerves. This field has grown significantly with the identification of several other reflexes regulating discrete immune functions. As outlined in this review, the delineation of these mechanisms revealed a new understanding of immunity, enabled a first-in-class clinical trial using bioelectronic devices to inhibit cytokines and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients, and provided a mosaic view of immunity as the integration of hematopoietic and neural responses to infection and injury.
This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (1R35 GM118182-01 to K.J.T.).
Abbreviations used in this article:
- β2-adrenergic receptor
- calcitonin gene-related peptide
- vasoactive peptide.
- Received September 28, 2016.
- Accepted February 15, 2017.
- Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.