Consider: What if you could use the connection between your brain working with your own immune system, to help heal yourself?
This might not be as far-fetched (or as far off) as you think.
a review by Alison Blackman, Editor in Chief, advicesisters.com
Until recently, a common belief was that brain and spinal cords could not be healed by the immune systems and furthermore, any infiltration of immune cells into the central nervous system would be an issue. However, Michal Schwartz, a Professor of Neuroimmunology in the Department of Neurobiology of Israel’s famed Weizmann Institute of Science and her research team blow this misconception right out of the water. Their revolutionary research about how the brain and the immune system function are nothing short of stunning.
Dr. Schwartz (With Anat London) chronicles her journey of scientific discovery on the topic of the connection of the brain with the immune system and what it might mean for our future health in Neuroimmunity: A New Science That Will Revolutionize How We Keep Our Brains Healthy and Young (Yale University Press, September 2015). This fascinating book also gives readers a glimpse into how research is conducted and into the thought process involved.
Dr. Schwartz wrote this book to inspire early stage medical students and Life Science PhD students, but she also wrote it for anyone in the general public interested in lifestyle and medicine. It isn’t a fluffy “beach” read, but it takes complex concepts and makes them user-friendly, with clear explanations of the scientific terms used. When the average person can easily understand the research concepts, the brain whirls with possibilities!
The table of contents reads like a wonderland of wishes. Consider: what if there was a treatment, injection or some kind of therapy that would prevent, reduce, or completely eliminate the effects of medical conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and glaucoma? It is likely that you or someone you know will suffer from one of these diseases, so hearing theories about how the immune systems works and how boosting immunity may be the key to treatment and prevention, is exciting.
What if you could implant certain immune cells that can treat spinal cord injuries or use immune-boosting vaccinations to prevent or delay the symptoms of glaucoma (a leading cause of blindness)? What if you could treat depression by increasing levels of immune cells, and use immune-based therapy to stop the devastating effects of Alzehimer’s? It’s not completely theoretical. The research has already shown that you can eliminate the Alzheimer’s-linked brain plaque (in mice with the disease) and help restore their cognitive function. When I read the book, I was truly excited because this isn’t science fiction, it’s research being conducted today.
I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Schwartz some questions, and the first was if any of this was past the concept stage and being implemented on patients in the actual world. If only! She reminded me that no one therapy is one size fits all, and that the Neuroimunity book introduces a concept but not yet, cures. As of now, specific treatments would be premature to discuss. Dr. Schwartz does say that it’s important to create a new medical discipline, that of Immunoneurology . She and admits that that bringing the revolutionary potential therapies that she describes in the book into real world practice, would require tremendous resources, and the ability to enable the transfer of the research therapies from lab to humans.
I asked, “What inspired you to pursue this research?” Dr. Schwartz replied: “ I did my PhD in Immunology and postdoc in Neurosciences, focusing on why there is very limited recovery following central nervous system injury. Soon after I enter the field it was discovered that there is an inflammation following CNS injury, within the lesion site. The interpretation at that time was that the inflammation is an outcome, at least in part, of immune cell entry to the CNS that should be always suppressed; assuming that the CNS is protected by barriers that should not allow entry of immune cells to the CNS under any circumstances.
My assumption was that it is very unlikely that a tissue like the brain that is so indispensable has evolutionary lost the ability to be assisted by the immune system, the major system of the body that assists in maintenance and repair. This motivated me to decide to revisit the field of the dialogue between the two systems, the immune and the central nervous system.”
For us today, the book, Neuroimmunity will change how you think about your body and your brain. It will also make a special and uplifting holiday gift choice for the people in your life who have inquiring minds, are interested in science, or who suffer (or know someone suffering) from one of the medical conditions that Dr. Schwartz and her team are researching treatments for. It offers true food for thought.
Here’s to the future!
You can buy Neuroimmunity in hardcover for $35.00 in hard cover on Amazon.com and a number of other sites. There is also a Kindle Version.
**I am proud to say that I am an advocate for curiosity for the The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science . The Institute does amazing things that can, will and already do transform lives. When it comes to improving health and medicine, research from Weizmann scientists include discovering the basis of amniocentesis and new fertility treatments; the discovery of Copaxone® and Rebif®, today two of the frontline treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS); developing technology used in advanced medical imaging scans; creating diabetes vaccines and flu vaccines; using stem cells to grow new organs and T cells to treat damaged spines; and studying the origins of life and the origins of disease. That’s just for starters! The Institute also focuses on research from fighting cancer, to learning more about our physical world, to advancing education and technology in many other areas.