Common knowledge and extensive scientific evidence suggest that the brain affects the immune system. Our goal is to understand the underlying mechanisms and to harness the networks involved in this communication toward the design of new therapuetic strategies to centrally regulate immune responses. The proposed research plan integrates state-of-the-art technologies in both neuroscience and immunology disciplines, merging them into a multidiciplinary research project.
Here we focus on the role of dopamine (DA) and dopaminergic networks in immune regulation. DA is associated with emotions, movement, and the brain’s pleasure and reward system. Dopamine-regulating drugs are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, mood disorders and attention deficits. However dopamine can also modulate the immune system. The mechanisms underlying the dopamine-mediated regulation of immunity remain elusive. The proposed research suggests studying how the specific dopaminergic neuronal networks in the brain participate in immune regulation. To this aim we utilize cutting-edge research tools to systematically investigate and establish causality between dopaminergic circuits in the brain and the immune system; manipulation of neuronal activity will be obtained via Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) and optogenetics. High throughput analysis using Luminex and CyTOF will provide a “bird's-eye view” of the influence of DA neuronal activity on the immune system and will also serve to point to relevant directions for future research.
My scientific background provides the expertise required to execute the presented research plan. As a graduate student I focused on immune system-related regulation of the brain. In my postdoctoral fellowship I focused on neuronal regulation of arousal mechanisms, acquiring the experimental skills in optogenetics and neuronal manipulation. As a new independent researcher at the Technion I propose to combine these fields
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