THE INFLAMMATORY REFLEX: A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF IMMUNOLOGY
USING THE BODY’S OWN HEALING REFLEX
In 2002, SetPoint Medical’s co-founder, Dr. Kevin Tracey discovered a new biological pathway – the Inflammatory Reflex – that created the possibility of treating chronic autoimmune disease using electricity. The Inflammatory Reflex signals along the vagus nerve to maintain homeostasis in the immune system and maintain a healthy set point. This signaling modulates the release of cytokines that contribute to inflammation.
MANY DISEASES, ONE COMMON SOURCE: CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
The immune system plays a critical role in purging infection and maintaining a balance state in inflammatory pathways. There is a growing consensus that chronic inflammation plays a role in causing and advancing many autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and many others.
THE ESSENTIAL ROLE OF THE VAGUS NERVE
The longest nerve in the body, the vagus nerve starts at the brain stem, splits into two branches and travels through the neck, chest and abdomen. It regulates heart rate and dozens of other vital functions. Various therapies with either drugs targeting molecular components of the circuit or through electrical stimulation have evolved over the past decades to leverage the vagus nerve’s protective effects to manage numerous diseases.
UNLOCKING THE RESTORATIVE POWER OF THE INFLAMMATORY REFLEX
The Inflammatory Reflex senses infection, tissue injury and inflammation and relays this information to the central nervous system, which then reflexively increases neural signaling peripherally through the vagus nerve. The signal is transmitted to a novel population of T cells in the spleen, which in turn direct effector cells including monocytes and macrophages to reduce their production of the mediators that initiate and perpetuate inflammation.
Since Dr. Tracey’s discovery, the Inflammatory Reflex has been characterized further in multiple peer-reviewed papers in prominent scientific journals, leading to development of potential therapies by activating the reflex to treat chronic diseases.