The nervous system and the immune system – an integrated approach to endemic illnesses

In recent years, the interaction of the nervous system's signal substances and the immune system has been the subject of increasing interest. This integrated view provides the research with brand new insights into neurological diseases, diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other illnesses. Prominent researchers within several different specialities are now gathering at a conference in Stockholm to discuss questions they all have in common.

Journalists are welcome to attend the conference and interview the researchers.

Conference: Nerve-Driven Immunity: Neurotransmitters and Neuropeptides in the Immune System
Time: 20-21 August 2014
Place: Nobel Forum, Nobels väg 1, Karolinska Institutet Campus Solna

A signal substance, neurotransmitter or neuropeptide, is a molecule that transmits chemical signals between the nerve cells in the nervous system. Such substances play a central part in health and illness, and a large number of drugs function based on the effects they have on these systems. The signal substances are also very important for what occurs in the immune system. Despite the importance of the interaction between the nervous system and the immune system in many illnesses, very little has been known about how it actually works. In later years, there have been several breakthroughs in the research on this subject, which has provided an entirely new perspective on illnesses such as diabetes, schizophrenia, infectious diseases, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

One of the speakers at the conference will be Mia Levite, Academic College of TelAviv-Yaffo, Israel. She coined the term 'nerve-driven immunity', which describes the interaction between nerves and the cells of the immune system through signal substances . She has also written a book on the subject, and conducts research on the role played by the neurotransmitters glutamate and dopamine in inflammatory diseases.

The immune system produces its own signal substances, including cytokines. Peder Olofsson at Kevin J. Tracey’s lab, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York, USA, will explain how the nervous system might help regulate inflammation by reducing the production of cytokines through the so called “inflammatory reflex”. Biopharmaceuticals targeted at cytokines have been available for a number of years and are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

GABA is another neurotransmitter that affects both the nervous system and the immune system, and which will be brought up by several of the speakers at the conference. Drugs that influence the GABA system may for example have an effect on anxiety disorders. But the interaction with the immune system means that such drug therapies might cause the patient to become more susceptible to infection.

The conference is jointly organised by Uppsala University, Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Professor Antonio Barragan
Tel +46 70 104 07 55

Professor Bryndis Birnir
Tel +46 76 562 02 43

Press Officer Sabina Bossi
Tel +46 8 524 860 66 or +46 70 614 60 66

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KAROLINSKA INSTITUTET PRESS OFFICE Opening hours: Monday–Friday 8–20, CET, Weekends 9–17, CETClosed 22 December–26 December and 29 December– 1 January Opening hours 27 December–6 January: 9–17 Karolinska Institutet – a medical university