My research focuses on the interface between the immune and nervous system, delineating how the nervous system monitors and modulates inflammatory responses. For example, activation of the vagus nerve suppresses systemic inflammation through a direct neuron-to-immune cell interaction termed the “inflammatory reflex”. My laboratory studies this prototypical neuro-immune communication with two primary objectives:
(1) Understand how peripheral neural circuits monitor systemic inflammatory responses. The sensory fibres of the vagus nerve are differentially activated by pro-inflammatory cytokines. My ongoing work aims to identify unique neural electrical signatures induced by immune molecules (e.g. cytokines) in inflammatory diseases. This work has implications in the development of new bioelectronic assays and technologies for the diagnosis of inflammatory diseases.
(2) Engineer electrical vagus nerve stimulation paradigms to treat inflammatory disease. Vagus nerve stimulation using empiric stimulation paradigms can decrease systemic inflammation through the “inflammatory reflex”. Using advances in nerve stimulation technology, we aim to design targeted electrical stimulation protocols that have anti-inflammatory effects. These electrical therapies represent a novel approach to the treatment of inflammation-driven diseases.
The conceptional and methodologic foundation to this work delineating therapeutically targetable neuro-immune communication has been published in leading journals such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, Anesthesiology, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Using the nervous system to monitor and modulate the immune system has the potential to impact on a variety of clinically important diseases in both adult and pediatric populations.