Integration of neuro-endocrine immune responses in defense of mucosal surfaces.

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  • 1 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

Neuro-endocrine immunology, a field arising from curiosity about the mind-body connection, is evolving rapidly. From intriguing, but seemingly unexplainable observations with human infections and disease, experimental systems have been developed that provide a solid scientific basis for new understanding. There have been major efforts to understand influences of the nervous system on immune and inflammatory responses, e.g., innervation of the immune system, molecular communication pathways, and complex phenomena such as conditioning of immune responses and mechanisms of host defenses. In turn, the immune system communicates with the neuro-endocrine systems. Imbalances in the neuro-endocrine-immunologic circuitry are relevant in host defenses and in injury and repair. Examples of these themes in neuro-endocrine-immunology arise in several host-parasite models of neurogenic inflammation, immediate hypersensitivity responses, and granuloma formation. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the cervical sympathetic trunk-submandibular gland axis provide important models to enhance understanding of this poorly known component of the host-parasite relationship.

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