The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway in chronic kidney disease—review and vagus nerve stimulation clinical pilot study

Marie Hilderman, Annette Bruchfeld

Published on Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation (NDT)


Inflammation and autonomic dysfunction are common findings in chronic and end-stage kidney disease and contribute to a markedly increased risk of mortality in this patient population. The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway (CAP) is a vagal neuro-immune circuit that upholds the homoeostatic balance of inflammatory activity in response to cell injury and pathogens. CAP models have been examined in preclinical studies to investigate its significance in a range of clinical inflammatory conditions and diseases. More recently, cervical vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) implants have been shown to be of potential benefit for patients with chronic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. We have previously shown that dialysis patients have a functional CAP ex vivo. Here we review the field and the potential role of the CAP in acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease (CKD) as well as in hypertension. We also present a VNS pilot study in haemodialysis patients. Controlling inflammation by neuroimmune modulation may lead to new therapeutic modalities for improved treatment, outcome, prognosis and quality of life for patients with CKD.

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