Feinstein study offers insight into nervous system

Feinstein study offers insight into nervous system
Valentin A. Pavlov, PhD, associate investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health.

Valentin A. Pavlov, an associate investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, lost his sister-in-law six years ago when she died of complications stemming from breast cancer.

“We’re talking about a young woman in her 40s,” he said.

Pavlov said the disease affected the capacity of his sister-in-law’s brain to regulate her nervous system and thereby direct her immune system’s response.

Insights into the relationship between the nervous system and the immune system are the subject of a study published on Monday by Pavlov and the institute’s president, Dr. Kevin J. Tracey.

“Neural regulation of immune function and inflammation is a rapidly evolving field, with significant opportunities for new discoveries,” Pavlov said.

The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, analyzes findings which demonstrate how the nervous system controls the immune system, and the role this control plays in different conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and spinal cord injury, the Feinstein Institute said in a statement.

With better understanding of the nervous system’s role in regulating immunity and inflammation, healthcare professionals may have the potential to harness the nervous system to treat disease, the statement added.

Pavlov, a Ph.D. scientist, said advances in research are spurring the development of bioelectric medicine, which uses digital equipment to mimic or block electrical signals communicated by the nervous system as it combats disease. These neural signals directly or indirectly control virtually every cell and organ of the body, the Feinstein Institute statement said.

“It’s very important to translate this information into human clinical trials,” Pavlov said.

He said the Feinstein Institute published the results of two such clinical trials in 2016.

“The clinical trials show optimistic results in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis,” he added.

He did not give a timeline for when those trials might yield treatments, though he noted the medicine must undergo a rigorous testing and approval process.

“Diseases like obesity are a huge burden on society,” Pavlov said. “We’re definitely going to target those diseases with electronic devices.”

“Through continued collaboration and research, we can continue to develop ways to harness the body’s own mechanisms to diagnose and treat itself,” Tracey said.

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