Research priorities for neuroimmunology: identifying the key research questions to be addressed by 2030

Wellcome Open Res. 2021 Jul 29;6:194. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.16997.1. eCollection 2021.


Neuroimmunology in the broadest sense is the study of interactions between the nervous and the immune systems. These interactions play important roles in health from supporting neural development, homeostasis and plasticity to modifying behaviour. Neuroimmunology is increasingly recognised as a field with the potential to deliver a significant positive impact on human health and treatment for neurological and psychiatric disorders. Yet, translation to the clinic is hindered by fundamental knowledge gaps on the underlying mechanisms of action or the optimal timing of an intervention, and a lack of appropriate tools to visualise and modulate both systems. Here we propose ten key disease-agnostic research questions that, if addressed, could lead to significant progress within neuroimmunology in the short to medium term. We also discuss four cross-cutting themes to be considered when addressing each question: i) bi-directionality of neuroimmune interactions; ii) the biological context in which the questions are addressed (e.g. health vs disease vs across the lifespan); iii) tools and technologies required to fully answer the questions; and iv) translation into the clinic. We acknowledge that these ten questions cannot represent the full breadth of gaps in our understanding; rather they focus on areas which, if addressed, may have the most broad and immediate impacts. By defining these neuroimmunology priorities, we hope to unite existing and future research teams, who can make meaningful progress through a collaborative and cross-disciplinary effort.

Keywords: Peripheral nervous system; behaviour; central nervous system; immunopsychiatry; inflammation; mental health; neuroimmune interactions; psychoneuroimmunology.