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      Neurostimulation of the Cholinergic Anti-Inflammatory Pathway Ameliorates Disease in Rat Collagen-Induced Arthritis

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          The inflammatory reflex is a physiological mechanism through which the nervous system maintains immunologic homeostasis by modulating innate and adaptive immunity. We postulated that the reflex might be harnessed therapeutically to reduce pathological levels of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis by activating its prototypical efferent arm, termed the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. To explore this, we determined whether electrical neurostimulation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway reduced disease severity in the collagen-induced arthritis model.


          Rats implanted with vagus nerve cuff electrodes had collagen-induced arthritis induced and were followed for 15 days. Animals underwent active or sham electrical stimulation once daily from day 9 through the conclusion of the study. Joint swelling, histology, and levels of cytokines and bone metabolism mediators were assessed.


          Compared with sham treatment, active neurostimulation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway resulted in a 52% reduction in ankle diameter (p = 0.02), a 57% reduction in ankle diameter (area under curve; p = 0.02) and 46% reduction overall histological arthritis score (p = 0.01) with significant improvements in inflammation, pannus formation, cartilage destruction, and bone erosion (p = 0.02), accompanied by numerical reductions in systemic cytokine levels, not reaching statistical significance. Bone erosion improvement was associated with a decrease in serum levels of receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) from 132±13 to 6±2 pg/mL (mean±SEM, p = 0.01).


          The severity of collagen-induced arthritis is reduced by neurostimulation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway delivered using an implanted electrical vagus nerve stimulation cuff electrode, and supports the rationale for testing this approach in human inflammatory disorders.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Bench to bedside: elucidation of the OPG-RANK-RANKL pathway and the development of denosumab.

          Bone is a complex tissue that provides mechanical support for muscles and joints, protection for vital organs, a mineral reservoir that is essential for calcium homeostasis, and the environment and niches required for haematopoiesis. The regulation of bone mass in mammals is governed by a complex interplay between bone-forming cells termed osteoblasts and bone-resorbing cells termed osteoclasts, and is guided physiologically by a diverse set of hormones, cytokines and growth factors. The balance between these processes changes over time, causing an elevated risk of fractures with age. Osteoclasts may also be activated in the cancer setting, leading to bone pain, fracture, spinal cord compression and other significant morbidities. This Review chronicles the events that led to an increased understanding of bone resorption, the elucidation of the signalling pathway mediated by osteoprotegerin, receptor activator of NF-κB (RANK) and RANK ligand (RANKL) and its role in osteoclast biology, as well as the evolution of recombinant RANKL antagonists, which culminated in the development of the therapeutic RANKL-targeted antibody denosumab.
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            Splenectomy inactivates the cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway during lethal endotoxemia and polymicrobial sepsis

            The innate immune system protects against infection and tissue injury through the specialized organs of the reticuloendothelial system, including the lungs, liver, and spleen. The central nervous system regulates innate immune responses via the vagus nerve, a mechanism termed the cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway. Vagus nerve stimulation inhibits proinflammatory cytokine production by signaling through the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit. Previously, the functional relationship between the cholinergic antiinflammatory pathway and the reticuloendothelial system was unknown. Here we show that vagus nerve stimulation fails to inhibit tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production in splenectomized animals during lethal endotoxemia. Selective lesioning of the common celiac nerve abolishes TNF suppression by vagus nerve stimulation, suggesting that the cholinergic pathway is functionally hard wired to the spleen via this branch of the vagus nerve. Administration of nicotine, an α7 agonist that mimics vagus nerve stimulation, increases proinflammatory cytokine production and lethality from polymicrobial sepsis in splenectomized mice, indicating that the spleen is critical to the protective response of the cholinergic pathway. These results reveal a specific, physiological connection between the nervous and innate immune systems that may be exploited through either electrical vagus nerve stimulation or administration of α7 agonists to inhibit proinflammatory cytokine production during infection and tissue injury.
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              The vagus nerve: a tonic inhibitory influence associated with inflammatory bowel disease in a murine model.

              The recently proposed Inflammatory Reflex describes an interaction between the vagus nerve and peripheral macrophages, resulting in attenuation of proinflammatory cytokine release in response to systemic exposure to bacterial endotoxin. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a similar vagus/macrophage axis modulates the inflammatory responses in the colon in mice. We assessed the Disease Activity Index (DAI), macroscopic and histologic damage, serum amyloid-P level, and myeloperoxidase activity in colitis induced by administration of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) in healthy and vagotomized C57BL/6 and in mice deficient in macrophage-colony stimulating factor (M-CSF)-induced and in hapten-induced colitis. A pyloroplasty was performed in vagotomized mice. DAI, macroscopic and histologic scores, myeloperoxidase activity, levels of serum amyloid-P, and colonic tissue levels of interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha were increased significantly in vagotomized mice 5 days post-DSS and 3 days after hapten-induced colitis compared with sham-operated mice that received DSS or the hapten. Pretreatment with nicotine significantly decreased each of these markers in vagotomized mice with DSS colitis, and all markers except DAI and IL-6 in sham-operated DSS-treated mice. Conversely, hexamethonium treatment significantly increased each of these markers in the sham-operated DSS-treated mice. Vagotomy had no effect on the colitis in M-CSF-deficient mice. The vagus nerve plays a counterinflammatory role in acute colitis via a macrophage-dependent mechanism, involving hexamethonium-sensitive nicotinic receptors. The identification of a counterinflammatory neural pathway would open new therapeutic avenues for treating acute exacerbations of inflammatory bowel disease.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                11 August 2014
                : 9
                : 8
                [1 ]SetPoint Medical Corporation, Valencia, California, United States of America
                [2 ]Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Academic Medical Center/University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
                [3 ]Bolder BioPATH, Inc., Boulder, Colorado, United States of America
                [4 ]Arthrogen BV, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
                [5 ]GlaxoSmithKline, Stevenage, United Kingdom
                [6 ]University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
                Georgia Regents University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: YAL, MF, AC and RZ are employees of SetPoint Medical Corporation. PPT is a consultant to and has received research grants from SetPoint Medical. PPT has become an employee of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) after completion of the study. GSK has obtained an equity interest in Setpoint Medical Corporation. FAK, AB, and MJV have no competing interests to declare. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: YAL MF AB RZ PPT. Performed the experiments: YAL FAK AC AB. Analyzed the data: YAL FAK AB RZ MJV PPT. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: YAL FAK AB RZ MJV PPT. Wrote the paper: YAL FAK RZ MJV PPT. Designed and developed the external pulse generator and software environment: MF.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 9
                YAL, MF, AC and RZ are employees of SetPoint Medical Corporation and received funding in the form of salaries for this study, therefore the funder had a role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Clinical Immunology
                Autoimmune Diseases
                Rheumatoid Arthritis
                Physiological Processes
                Bone Remodeling
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Research and Analysis Methods
                Animal Studies
                Animal Models of Disease
                Model Organisms
                Animal Models
                Research Design
                Clinical Research Design
                Preclinical Models



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