Health In Focus
  • Brain and gut are connected through neural networks controlled by the neurotransmitter dopamine
  • Dopamine a neurotransmitter is released by the nerve cells and has a major role in reward-motivated behavior
  • Dopamine signaling manipulation in the nervous system of C.elegans was found to control gut inflammation

Gut instinct has always been held in high regard, closer to the truth is the gut brain connection that has found to influence immunity. Researchers from Duke University have found that inflammation in the gut can be controlled by altering the dopamine signaling of the nematode C. elegans' nervous system.
Gut Instinct - Gut Brain Connection for Immunity
Gut Instinct - Gut Brain Connection for Immunity

The study was designed to understand the impact of drugs on immunity that were originally meant for the nervous system. The paper published in the Journal Current Biology provides proof that it could be possible.

A Professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, Dr Alejandro Aballay from Duke University said "We are talking about an existing set of drugs and drug targets that could open up the spectrum of potential therapeutic applications by targeting pathways that fine-tune the inflammatory response,"

Potential to Treat Certain Chronic Diseases

Talking about the idea of targeting the immune system, he said "It is a big leap from worms to humans, but the idea of targeting the nervous system to control the immune system could potentially be used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn's disease."

The gut and brain connection are involved in a number of significant disorders which can potentially be treated.

Study that Lead to the Dopamine Connection

The researchers studied the effect of various chemicals on the immune system of C. elegans to protect it from bacterial infections. They found 45 chemicals that were found to activate an immune pathway and almost half of these chemicals worked on the nervous system. A few of them blocked dopamine activity.

The Effect of Dopamine and Dopamine Signaling Pathways on Immunity

Xiou Cao, a graduate student studied the effect of chlorpromazine on the worm as well as on animals. Chlorpromazine is used against schizophrenia and for manic depression in humans.
  • The worms showed increased immunity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa when compared to worms that did not receive the drug.
  • In animals, the drug increased susceptibility.
This led the researchers to conclude that acts by stopping the inflammatory process.

Dr Aballay states "Worms have evolved mechanisms to deal with colonizing bacteria. That is true for us as well. Humans have trillions of microorganisms in our guts, and we have to be careful when activating antimicrobial defenses so that we mainly target potentially harmful microbes, without damaging our good bacteria -- or even our own cells -- in the process."The nervous system appears to be the perfect system for integrating all these different physiological cues to keep the amount of damage in check,"

The study provides an insight into the effect of drugs used for disorders that affect the brain on the immunity of the individual. It offers potential for improving immunity using these drugs.

Reference :
  1. Neural inhibition of dopaminergic signaling enhances immunity in a cell non-autonomous manner," Xiou Cao and Alejandro Aballay. Current Biology, Aug. 12, 2016 2016.
Source: Medindia

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