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Autoimmune neuropathies are common PNS disorders and effective treatment is challenging. Environmental influence and dietary components are known to affect the course of autoimmune diseases. Capsaicin as pungent component of chili-peppers is common in human nutrition. An influence of capsaicin on autoimmune diseases has been postulated.
We tested capsaicin in the animal model of experimental autoimmune neuritis (EAN) in Lewis rat. Rats were immunized with P2-peptide and were treated with capsaicin in different preventive settings. Electrophysiological, histological, and molecular biological analyses of the sciatic nerve were performed to analyze T-cell and macrophage cell count, TRPV1, and cytokine expression. Moreover, FACS analyses including the intestinal immune system were executed.
We observed an immunomodulatory effect of an early preventive diet-concept, where a physiological dosage of oral capsaicin was given 10 days before immunization in EAN. A reduced inflammation of the sciatic nerve was significant detectable clinically, electrophysiologically (CMAPs reduced in control group p < 0.01; increase of nerve conduction blocks in control group p < 0.05), histologically (significant reduction of T-cells, macrophages and demyelination), and at cytokine level. In contrast, this therapeutic effect was missing with capsaicin given from the day of immunization onwards. As possible underlying mechanism, we were able to show changes in the expression of the capsaicin receptor in the sciatic nerve and the small intestine, as well as altered immune cell populations in the small intestine.
This is the first report about the immunomodulatory effect of the common nutrient, capsaicin, in an experimental model for autoimmune neuropathies.