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Role of the sympathetic nervous system in mild chronic inflammatory diseases - focus on osteoarthritis.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is a major regulatory mediator connecting the brain and the immune system that influences accordingly inflammatory processes within the entire body. In the periphery, the SNS exerts its effects mainly via its neurotransmitters norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (E), which are released by peripheral nerve endings in lymphatic organs and other tissues. Depending on their concentration, NE and E bind to specific α- and β-adrenergic receptor (AR) subtypes and can cause both pro- and anti-inflammatory cellular responses. The co-transmitter neuropeptide Y (NPY), adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or its metabolite adenosine are also mediators of the SNS. Local pro-inflammatory processes due to injury or pathogens lead to an activation of the SNS, which in turn induces several immunoregulatory mechanisms with either pro- or anti-inflammatory effects depending on neurotransmitter concentration or pathological context. In chronic inflammatory diseases, the activity of the SNS is persistently elevated and can trigger detrimental pathological processes. Recently, the sympathetic contribution in mild chronic inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis (OA) attracted growing interest. OA is a whole-joint disease and is characterized by a mild chronic inflammation in the joint. In this narrative article, we summarize the underlying mechanisms behind the sympathetic influence on inflammation during OA pathogenesis. In addition, OA comorbidities also accompanied by mild chronic inflammation, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression, will be reviewed. Finally, the potential of SNS-based therapeutic options for the treatment of OA will be discussed.

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