Send to

Choose Destination
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017 Mar;19(1):19-26.

In immune defense: redefining the role of the immune system in chronic disease.

Author information

Diabetes Institute, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


in English, French, Spanish

The recognition of altered immune system function in many chronic disease states has proven to be a pivotal advance in biomedical research over the past decade. For many metabolic and mood disorders, this altered immune activity has been characterized as inflammation, with the attendant assumption that the immune response is aberrant. However, accumulating evidence challenges this assumption and suggests that the immune system may be mounting adaptive responses to chronic stressors. Further, the inordinate complexity of immune function renders a simplistic, binary model incapable of capturing critical mechanistic insights. In this perspective article, we propose alternative paradigms for understanding the role of the immune system in chronic disease. By invoking allostasis or systems biology rather than inflammation, we can ascribe greater functional significance to immune mediators, gain newfound appreciation of the adaptive facets of altered immune activity, and better avoid the potentially disastrous effects of translating erroneous assumptions into novel therapeutic strategies.


allostasis; depression; diabetes; immunity; inflammation; obesity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center