The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway: an innovative treatment strategy for respiratory diseases and their comorbidities

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Over the past few decades, it has been clarified that the nervous system and immune system have overlapping distributions and their interactions are critical in the regulation of immunological and inflammatory responses. The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, including the parasympathetic nerve systems and humoral factors orchestrate the immune responses to protect the body during infection and tissue injury. Recent investigations have attempted to clarify how the parasympathetic nerve systems attenuate the systemic inflammatory responses and identified the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR) as a crucial target for attenuating the release of inflammatory cytokines from inflammatory cells including macrophages and dendritic cells. This modulatory circuit pathway possibly exists in the lungs and might be involved in regulating inflammation and immunity during infection and other inflammatory lung diseases including asthma and COPD, which means that modulation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway is a possible therapeutic target for lung diseases.

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