“These pain-sensing nerves can detect pathogens, and for the first time, we’ve shown that they activate an immune response and also signal protective immunity in sites adjacent to the infection. They first showed that just activating these neurons released a small protein called CGRP, which recruited different types of immune cells to the site. Using optogenetics and chemical nerve blockers, the researchers showed through a series of elegant experiments that when the fungus infected the skin at one location, the nerves not only detected and initiated an immune response to fight the infection but also sent a signal toward the spinal cord. ” “The advantage of involving the nervous system is that it can communicate information across space in a span of milliseconds, compared to hours or days for the immune cells to do the same function. Kaplan said that while it remains to be seen how the findings translate to humans, they have interesting implications for autoimmune diseases of barrier tissues like the skin or gut.
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