Scientists at The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research have succeeded in controlling the neurons that release molecular proteins responsible for inflammation.

The research, led by professor Chavan and associate professor Huan Yang at Feinstein Institutes, was aimed at better understanding the inflammation within the body.

It combined the optogenetics, neuronal-specific deletion and preclinical models of inflammatory diseases while monitoring inflammation and neuropathic pain.

The study is said to have offered a new approach to treat diseases that are characterised by inflammation and pain, including arthritis.

Feinstein Institutes Bioelectronic Medicine professor Sangeeta Chavan said: “Using light or genetic tools, we can turn off and on the switch that controls inflammation in the body.

“This preclinical bioelectronic medicine research is paving the way for a variety of new treatment options for people living with serious, chronic health conditions.”

Inflammation is the body’s defensive response to injury and infection, and is triggered by molecular proteins, including high mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1).

Molecular proteins also stimulate sensory neurons, dubbed nociceptors, whose activation controls the inflammation through release of neuropeptides producing neuroinflammation.

Inflammation is crucial, but can be harmful if unresolved, and may result in autoimmune or autoinflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease.

Feinstein Institutes Bioelectronic Medicine associate professor Yang said: “Our new methodology allows us to develop ways to regulate inflammation mediated by neurons.

“The optogenetic and neuronal-specific ablation strategies show us the critical role HMGB1 plays in neuroinflammation and pain.”

The study results demonstrated that nociceptor HMGB1 is essential for a neuroinflammatory response to injury, and nociceptor-related pain can be prevented by targeting HMGB1.

The research offers a new therapeutic approach for treating various diseases, and suggests that HMGB1 may can be used as a potential therapy for neuroinflammatory diseases.

Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, a health care provider and private employer in New York State.

With 50 research labs, 3,000 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, it is an international hub for scientific research in bioelectronic medicine.

Feinstein Institutes president and CEO Kevin J Tracey said: “After 30 years of researchers studying how to turn off the immune system, we recently sought a way to turn it on.

“Thanks to this pivot in research, Drs. Yang and Chavan discovered that nerves release a molecule to produce inflammation in the body, which could lead to a new strategy to develop pharmaceutical and bioelectronic therapies.”