Ragon Institute hosts Neuro-Immune Symposium

Ragon Institute hosts Neuro-Immune Symposium

May 28

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Two-day symposium brings together experts in the growing field of neuroimmunology

On March 28th and 29th, 2019, the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard hosted a Neuro-Immune Symposium with the goal of bringing together world-class experts in neuroimmunology and the related fields of neurobiology and immunology to share their cutting-edge research and discoveries, and to foster interactions among PIs, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students interested in the topic. Neuroimmunology is a growing field focused on the study of the interactions between the nervous system and the immune system, and it is increasingly clear that communication between the nervous system and immune system plays a critical role in development, homeostasis, and disease.


Neuroimmunology is critical to our understanding of both immunological and neurological diseases. The nervous system strongly influences immune activation and inflammation both centrally and in the periphery, with neurotransmitters and neuronal mediators regulating bacterial and viral infection, allergic diseases, as well as pulmonary, gastrointestinal and skin inflammation. The immune system and molecules it produces communicate with neurons to regulate synapse pruning, neuronal activity, behavior and neurodegeneration. The emerging field of neuroimmunology has a broad impact on our understanding of biology and medicine and is generating a tremendous amount of interest in the scientific community, made clear by the overwhelming enthusiasm and high attendance at the recent symposium.


The Neuro-Immune Symposium took place over two days and featured two keynote speakers. The first keynote speaker was Carla Shatz, PhD, from Stanford University, who has made major discoveries in understanding how immune molecules in the central nervous system regulate neural circuits, synapse development, and neurodegeneration. Dr. Shatz presented her talk titled “Surprise at the synapse: MHC class I, pruning, and plasticity” on Thursday afternoon. On Friday morning, Kevin Tracey, MD, from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, presented on the basic and clinical implications of molecular mechanisms of the inflammatory reflex. Dr. Tracey, a leader in the field of neuroimmunology and defining the role of the peripheral nervous system in regulating inflammation, talked about his discovery of the vagus nerve as a critical regulator of peripheral cytokine production in sepsis, and how stimulation of the vagus nerve may lead to new ways to treat inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.


Other speakers at the symposium included, listed in order of their presentations: Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, Jun Huh, PhD, Francisco Quintana, PhD, Gloria Choi, PhD, Michael Wheeler, PhD, Daniel Mucida, PhD, Clifford Woolf, MB, BCh, PhD, David Artis, PhD, Tracy Huang, PhD, Isaac Chiu, PhD, Christophe Benoist, MD, PhD, Nicole Lai, PhD, Marco Colonna, MD, Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD, Pavel Hanc, PhD, Beth Stevens, PhD, Mike Carroll, PhD, Michael Diamond, PhD, Robyn Klein, MD, PhD, David Knipe, PhD and Avindra Nath, PhD.


The Neuro-Immune Symposium was organized by Drs. Isaac Chiu and Jun Huh from Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Ulrich von Andrian from HMS and the Ragon Institute. Given the interest in the topic and the success of this inaugural symposium, discussions are underway regarding a follow-up symposium, and potentially symposia taking place every few years to share updates, provide opportunities for collaboration, and continue to grow the field.


Photo courtesy of Silvia Galván Peña