Duke University Medical Center researchers have discovered a genetic link between the nervous system and the immune system in the well-studied worm, C. elegans, and the findings could illuminate new approaches to human therapies.
For some time, scientists have theorized a direct link between the nervous and immune systems, such as stress messages that override the protective effects of antibodies, but the exact connection was unknown. During this week’s podcast, Dr. Alejandro Aballay points out that this is the first time that a genetic approach has been used to demonstrate that specific neurons in the nervous system are capable of regulating the immune response in distant cells. The Duke study was published in the Sept. 18 issue of Science.
After talking about the benefits of working with C. elegans as a model oganism, Dr. Aballay explains that in addition to shedding light on the neuronal regulation of immunity, the results of the Duke study can also lead to a better understanding of non-neuronal processes such as fat storage and longevity. He also discusses what the scientific team has in mind to advance this research.