Spinal Cord Neurons Enhance Peripheral Immune Response

To characterize further the neural involvement in local immune reactions, we evaluated the effect of intrathecal NMDA-receptor blocker dizocilpine maleate (MK-801) on the peripheral immune response itself and on spinal cord c-fos expression induced by the delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response. Immune challenge took place in the hind paw ipsilateral or contralateral to an injured sciatic nerve in both previously sensitized and immune-naive animals. An enhanced immune response was observed bilaterally in the hind paws of animals subjected to unilateral mononeuropathy compared with sham-operated controls. In contrast, no such enhancement was observed when neuropathic animals were challenged in the front paws. The increased DTH response was blocked successfully by the intrathecal administration of an analgesic dose of MK-801. Compared with sham-operated animals, animals subjected to unilateral mononeuropathy showed both a differential distribution and an increase in the number of c-fos-labeled neurons in the dorsal horn of the L3-L5 spinal cord segments after immune challenge. This was observed irrespective of whether the challenge took place ipsilateral or contralateral to the injured nerve. In addition to reversing the changes in immune response, intrathecal administration of MK-801 reversed the pattern of c-fos immunoreactivity in the spinal cord after immune challenge in neuropathic animals. These data suggest that select groups of spinal cord neurons participate in enhancing the peripheral immune response to a specific antigen in neuropathic animals and that this enhancement involves central NMDA receptors.

Herzberg U, Murtaugh MP, Carroll D, Beitz AJ. Spinal cord NMDA receptors modulate peripheral immune responses and spinal cord c-fos expression after immune challenge in rats subjected to unilateral mononeuropathy.J Neurosci 16 (2): 730-743 (Jan 15 1996)

Spinal Fixations Adversely Affect The Immune System

There is an increasing body of evidence that the nervous system is capable of modulating the immune response. Receptors for neuromodulators and neurohormones have been found on human T lymphocytes. Activation of these receptors can be stimulatory or inhibitory depending on the neuroactive substance. The immune system may be able to communicate with the nervous system using neuromodulators and neurohormones secreted by lymphocytes. Sympathetic innervation of lymphoid tissues is not restricted to blood vessels and smooth muscle, but directly supplies lymphocytes and blood precursor cells. It is theorized that spinal fixations may adversely affect the immune response through somatosympathetic reflexes. Spinal manipulation can correct the spinal fixations and may eliminate the adverse affects of somatosympathetic reflexes.

Fidelibus JC. An overview of neuroimmunomodulation and a possible correlation with musculoskeletal system function.J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1989 Aug;12(4):289-292