Vagus nerve linked to immune system and $Profits

Feinstein Institute Scientists Discover More Detail About the Vagus Nerve and Immune System | The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research – December 21st, 2016

Here are three articles showing how taxpayer-funded research discoveries are turned into corporate profits.

Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research discovered more details about how the vagus nerve interacts with the immune system, better understanding how bioelectronic medicine may treat disease.

By mapping the mechanisms of the vagus nerve and identifying new neural pathways by which the vagus nerve sends signals to the rest of the body, researchers now can focus their attention on using bioelectronic medicine to activate the newly revealed pathways and treat a wide variety of conditions and diseases.  

The results of this discovery are part of a new study published today in Bioelectronic Medicine, a peer-reviewed biomedical journal published by the Feinstein Institute Press.

“Our new finding clearly shows that the vagus nerve carries immune-related signals, which makes it a good target for bioelectronic treatment for autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus.”

The nervous system sends signals through the body to control organ and cell function. Nerves connect to different organs and send signals to the brain to maintain normal function and also to alert to issues such as infection and inflammation.

The emerging field of bioelectronic medicine is looking to harness these neural signals to help the body heal itself.

Key to successfully tapping into these neural signals is having a full understanding of how different receptors within each nerve trigger different reactions in the body.

This information can be used to identify the different mechanisms to treat a condition, while helping medical professionals to identify if their stimulation has an effect on other bodily functions.

Cytokine-specific Neurograms in the Sensory Vagus Nerve

Dr. Huerta looked at how the vagus nerve responds to the presence of elevated levels of cytokines in the body. Cytokines are small proteins that are especially important in the function of the immune system.

“In this study, we were looking to sharpen our understanding of what makes the vagus nerve sense the immune response,” said Dr. Huerta. “We devised an electrode setup to record down to the vagus fibers that are activated by the cytokines. We found that similar to how the brain perceives and interprets colors differently, each cytokine is perceived and interpreted by the vagus nerve differently.”

About Bioelectronic Medicine

Bioelectronic Medicine is an open access, international, peer-reviewed biomedical journal published by the Feinstein Institute Press. Bioelectronic medicine combines molecular medicine, bioengineering, and neuroscience to discover and develop nerve stimulating and sensing technologies to regulate biological processes and treat disease.

The Feinstein Institute

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York.

Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the 2,000 researchers and staff of the Feinstein are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit

I hope this research was NOT tax-funded because the following patent was filed right after the research. This shows how intimately medical research is tied to money these days.

Much of the research done at the NIH is equally motivated and private patents are often filed to create private profit from tax-funded research.

Patent WO2016134199A1 – Nerve stimulation for treatment of diseases and disorders – Google Patents – WO 2016134199 A1

Filing date: Feb 19, 2016, Publication date: Aug 25, 2016

Inventors Kevin J. Tracey, Sangeeta S. Chavan

Applicant The Feinstein Institute For Medical Research


Methods are disclosed for treating a subject having a disease or disorder comprising stimulating a nerve of the subject with a corrective stimulus pattern derived from a disease- specific, condition-specific, endogenous mediator-specific or pharmacologic agent-specific neurogram in an amount and manner effective to treat the disease or disorder.

They make 39 separate claims that cover anything even remotely related to the topic, giving it a total dominance of the market for this kind of treatment.

We taxpayers fund research through the NIH, and then private corporations charge us huge amounts to use the resulting medical treatments.  Taxpayers end up funding obscene corporate profits reaped from the research that we paid for.

Claims (39)

What is claimed is:

  1. A method for treating a subject having a disease or disorder comprising stimulating a nerve of the subject with a corrective stimulus pattern derived from a disease-specific, condition-specific, endogenous mediator-specific or pharmacologic agent-specific neurogram in an amount and manner effective to treat the disease or disorder.


  1. The method of claim 1

… disease or disorder in which it is desirable to increase the activity or level of a cytokine

Strangely, this link between the vagus nerve and inflammation has been known since at least 2012:

The vagus nerve and the inflammatory reflex—linking immunity and metabolism Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2012 Dec

The vagus nerve has an important role in regulation of metabolic homeostasis, and efferent vagus nerve-mediated cholinergic signalling controls immune function and proinflammatory responses via the inflammatory reflex.

Dysregulation of metabolism and immune function in obesity are associated with chronic inflammation, a critical step in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Cholinergic mechanisms within the inflammatory reflex have, in the past 2 years, been implicated in attenuating obesity-related inflammation and metabolic complications. This knowledge has led to the exploration of novel therapeutic approaches in the treatment of obesity-related disorders.


The inflammatory reflex mediated by the vagus nerve has been successfully exploited therapeutically in preclinical models of diseases with aetiologies characterized by excessive inflammatory responses.

Insufficient efferent vagus nerve cholinergic output might have a causative role in the dysfunctional immune and metabolic regulation observed in obesity, as selective activation of the efferent cholinergic arm of the inflammatory reflex attenuates both inflammation and metabolic derangements.

Although cholinergic suppression of inflammation can contribute specifically to alleviating metabolic complications, direct cholinergic effects on metabolic pathways could also have a role in alleviating symptoms associated with the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

These complex interactions and the contribution of central and peripheral mechanisms in this regulation are topics of ongoing study.

Additionally, intracellular mechanisms by which cholinergic signals control obesity-associated inflammation and modulate insulin signalling are under investigation.

α7nAChR agonists, centrally acting acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and direct electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve offer potential therapeutic strategies for treating obesity, the metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus and other disorders associated with obesity.

The use of cholinergic modalities in combination with existing or new therapeutic approaches to target neural, endocrine and immune functions for therapeutic benefit in patients with obesity-related disorders should also be considered.



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