Neuroimmunology

Head:
PD Dr. rer. nat. Silvia Capellino

The junior research group “Neuroimmunology” focuses its work on the effects of the nervous system on the immune system and on other peripheral cells.

Clinical evidence suggests a direct interplay between the nervous system and the immune system. It is for example well known that stress and sleep disturbances increase the incidence of infectious diseases. This direct impact of the nervous system on our body is possible because immune cells and other peripheral cells express neurotransmitters’ receptors.

Although it is described that the nervous system directly influences our body’s immune response, we still do not know how this exactly works. Therefore, the Neuroimmunology group works in cooperation with the other groups within IfADo, in order to study the effects of neurotransmitters on the immune response with a very interdisciplinary approach.

The aim is to find out how exactly the nervous system acts on the immune system and on other organs in the physiological situation and during neurological and psychological diseases. This knowledge will allow to better treat patients and also to be aware of possible side effects of neuromodulating drugs on our immune response.

Furthermore, it was already described that immune cells are able to produce neurotransmitters by themselves in some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (Ann Rheum Dis. 2010 Oct;69(10):1853-60) and multiple sclerosis (J Neuroimmunol. 2002 Dec;133(1-2):233-40). These new findings open up a new field of research in immunology. We, therefore, plan to better characterize the neuronal-like mechanisms used by immune cells. Furthermore, we aim to find out how we can use these mechanisms to treat the above-mentioned diseases with a very novel therapeutic approach.

Major ongoing topics of the research group include: