Homeostasis of the central nervous system (CNS) is strictly regulated by a unique structure of blood vessels, the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Experimental and clinical evidence has revealed that abnormalities in the BBB in chronic inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). By using an animal model of MS, we identified novel neuro-immune crosstalk to explain how pathogenic immune cells enter the CNS to disrupt its homeostasis, a phenomenon we named the gateway reflex. Regional neural inputs such as gravity, electricity, pain or chronic stress cause specific neural activation to create a gateway of immune cells, particularly pathogenic ones, at specific blood vessels. Moreover, the recently discovered stress-induced gateway reflex uncovered a stress-induced neural link between the brain, gastrointestine, and heart. Thus, the gateway reflex is critical for the homeostasis of various organs, and aberrant activation of neural pathways by the gateway reflex disrupts normal organ homeostasis. The inflammatory reflex is another mechanism for local neuro-immune interactions. It potently exerts a cholinergic anti-inflammatory effect on various disease conditions. In this section, we discuss emerging roles for local neuro-immune interactions, with a special focus on the gateway reflex.
Part of the book: Homeostasis