Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation reduces serum high mobility group box 1 levels and improves survival in murine sepsis *

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Objective:Electrical vagus nerve stimulation inhibits proinflammatory cytokine production and prevents shock during lethal systemic inflammation through an [alpha]7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor ([alpha]7nAChR)-dependent pathway to the spleen, termed the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. Pharmacologic [alpha]7nAChR agonists inhibit production of the critical proinflammatory mediator high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) and rescue mice from lethal polymicrobial sepsis. Here we developed a method of transcutaneous mechanical vagus nerve stimulation and then investigated whether this therapy can protect mice against sepsis lethality.Design:Prospective, randomized study.Setting:Institute-based research laboratory.Subjects:Male BALB/c mice.Interventions:Mice received lipopolysaccharide to induce lethal endotoxemia or underwent cecal ligation and puncture to induce polymicrobial sepsis. Mice were then randomized to receive electrical, transcutaneous, or sham vagus nerve stimulation and were followed for survival or euthanized at predetermined time points for cytokine analysis.Measurements and Main Results:Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation dose-dependently reduced systemic tumor necrosis factor levels during lethal endotoxemia. Treatment with transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation inhibited HMGB1 levels and improved survival in mice with polymicrobial sepsis, even when administered 24 hrs after the onset of disease.Conclusions:Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation is an efficacious treatment for mice with lethal endotoxemia or polymicrobial sepsis.

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