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Neurommunology Group: historical links to an exciting future

Although the brain is considered an immune-privileged organ, there is a clear interaction between the immune system and the function of the nervous system in many disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems. In this context, neuroimmunology can be considered to encompass studies of diseases of the nervous system as well as the interaction between the neuro- and immune systems. While the origins of neuroimmunology pre-date the establishment of the British Society for Immunology by nearly a century, the subject has its roots firmly in the interdisciplinary collaborations in the early 1950s. The first International Congress of Neuroimmunology was held in Stresa, Italy in 1982 and strongly promoted the idea that immunity in the central nervous system played an important role in many disorders. Although the International Society of Neuroimmunology was only founded after the second congress in 1987, the Journal of Neuroimmunology had already been launched in March 1981, shortly followed by the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuroimmunology in 1988.

In line with the rapidly developing field, the Neuroimmunology (NI) Affinity Group of the BSI was founded soon after the 2nd BSI Annual Congress in 1994. I remember submitting two of the seven abstracts for the British Neuroimmunology Group Workshop. At the time (from what I remember), the members included John Greenwood, Chris Bolton, Neil Scolding, David Baker, John Fazakerley, Azy Khalili-Shirazi, Angela Vincent, Nicola Woodroofe and myself. While we have indeed changed, as has the number of members, the idea behind the Neuroimmunology Affinity Group has not.

Promoting neuroimmunology in a world where neurodegenerative diseases are rapidly becoming a major concern has not been difficult. Similarly, the growing number of immune-directed therapies is providing real opportunities to target neuroimmunological mechanisms for the benefit of patients. The rapidly growing number of journals and papers in this field also reflects the international research interests.

While I have now taken over from Nicola as Chair of the NI group, Nicola and I (as her second in command) organised several NI meetings within and outside the BSI annual meeting over the past few years.  As Chair, I have continued this effort with a new band of NI board members to contribute ideas and enthusiasm for the group. For BSI members with an interest in NI, please check out the upcoming joint BSI-NVVI annual meeting in Liverpool in December 2016 where we are running a session on neuroimmunology and rheumatology and also the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) in Boston, USA where, on 22 June, the NI affinity group has a session on ‘Immune tolerance in multiple sclerosis’.

The board members are:

Sandra Amor
VUMC, Amsterdam and Blizard Institute
Barts and the London Hospital 

John Curnow
Institute of Inflammation & Ageing
University of Birmingham

Bruno Gran
Division of Clinical Neuroscience
University of Nottingham School of Medicine

Denise Fitzgerald
Wellcome-Wolfson Institute
Queen’s University Belfast

Anne Astier
MRC Centre for Inflammation Research
University of Edinburgh 

If you have any queries or ideas for the group, do get in touch with us via our contact details on the website. 

Sandra Amor
BSI Neuroimmunology Affinity Group

You can visit the Neuroimmunology Group page on our website.