In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation in one joint is transmitted to other joints via the sensory neuron connections in the spinal cord, leading to inflammation in the other joints. Inflammation in one joint led to an increase in ATP in other joints, which triggered an increase of a signaling molecule that resulted in inflammation. Blocking the pathway reduced the spread of inflammation.
Researchers have identified a bio-chemical circuit that supports neuron-microglia communication. When neurons are active, they release ATP. Microglia sense extracellular ATP and the compound draws the immune cell toward the neuron.
Researchers have developed small molecules that inhibit one of the main enzymes implicated in autoimmune response. The research could lead to potential new medications for a range of autoimmune diseases.