Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. Dr. Paulo J. Negro, a psychiatrist at Suburban Hospital, works with patients who have the Vagus Nerve Stimulation device implanted in their chest like a pacemaker, to help combat depression. Photo Credit: Washington Post via Getty Images

Health The World2. October 2023

Spotlight on a Special Nerve to Fight Several Diseases

A growing number of studies focus on the vagus nerve, the “electrical superhighway” that appears to link the nervous system to the immune system, to help develop better treatments for various diseases, including inflammatory conditions.

“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that vagus nerve stimulation will treat a wide range of diseases and disorders – everything from rheumatoid arthritis through to depression and alcoholism,” states Dr. Benjamin Metcalfe at the University of Bath, England.

The vagus nerve – which is rather two nerves – is a two-way communication channel between the brain and the heart, lungs and abdominal organs, and structures like the esophagus and voice box. It helps control involuntary processes like breathing, heart rate, digestion, and immune responses. It is also part of the parasympathetic nervous system that governs the “rest and digest” processes and relaxes the body after periods of stress or danger. Today, vagus nerve stimulators are investigated to potentially become an alternative to antidepressants for patients dealing with treatment-resistant depression. Implanting a device that electrically stimulates the vagus nerve helps the release of acetylcholine, a chemical that tells immune cells to switch off inflammation. Incidentally, it could help better treat inflammatory conditions like sepsis, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.

The Guardian

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