Researchers discovered a critical role the chemical acetylcholine plays as a neurotransmitter in combating chronic viral infection, as published in Science.
The new study details how acetylcholine, a chemical known to be produced by neurons, is also produced by white blood cells as a signal to fight viruses. Authors show that the enzyme choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), which catalyzes the rate-limiting step of ACh production, is robustly induced in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells during lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection in an IL-21–dependent manner.
The team discovered that genetically-engineered mice that fail to produce acetylcholine in T-Cells fail to control chronic virus infections. They show that the deletion of Chat within the T cell compartment in mice ablated vasodilation in response to infection, impaired the migration of antiviral T cells into infected tissues, and ultimately compromised the control of chronic LCMV clone 13 infection.
"This finding - that immune cells need acetylcholine to fight viral infections - is an important and surprising insight into how to strengthen the immune system," said the author. "It offers a crucial new insight into how to pursue bioelectronic medicine devices to treat infections."
"We now have absolute genetic proof that immune cells need this brain chemical in order to swing into action to attack disease," said another author. "Not only does it give us a sharper understanding of the body's immunological response mechanisms, it also brings immunology and bioelectronic medicine onto the same path of discovery."
Neurotransmitter required to fight viral infection!
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