Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 71–75

Neuroimmune Pharmacology: An Elective Course for Molecular and Cellular Bioscience Graduate Programs


    • Institute of Neuroimmune PharmacologySeton Hall University
    • Department of Biological SciencesSeton Hall University
  • Xin Mao
    • Institute of Neuroimmune PharmacologySeton Hall University

DOI: 10.1007/s11481-010-9249-0

Cite this article as:
Chang, S.L. & Mao, X. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol (2011) 6: 71. doi:10.1007/s11481-010-9249-0


Neuroimmune pharmacology is an interdisciplinary field which integrates neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology. This new discipline has developed over the last two decades in order to study the etiology and treatment of disorders involving both the immune and nervous systems. The proposed Neuroimmune Pharmacology course is a semester-long elective course for students in molecular and cellular biology graduate programs. It is designed to introduce these students to basic principles and practices of neuroimmune pharmacology as well as to the application of molecular and cellular biological techniques in the study of neuroimmune disorders. The goal of this elective course is to help prepare future molecular and cellular biologists to undertake research initiatives in the field of neuroimmunity in health and disease.


Neuroimmune pharmacologyGraduate courseMolecular bioscience programs


The study of immune disorders of the nervous system is one of the most challenging research areas at the current time. Neuroimmune pharmacology has emerged as an interdisciplinary discipline, integrating neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology, in order to better define the epidemiology, prevention, and treatment of immune disorders of the nervous system. It is, therefore, time to design and offer a course in Neuroimmune Pharmacology as an elective for graduate students in molecular and cellular bioscience programs who want to expand their training from basic science to medical application. One of the missions of molecular and cellular biology programs should be to train graduate students in how to use the knowledge and techniques they have learned in order to undertake new research initiatives.

The proposed Neuroimmune Pharmacology course is based on two previous courses that were conducted recently. The first course, entitled, “Neuroimmune Pharmacology” was taught in the fall of 2008 at the China Medical University College of Pharmacy in Taiwan. That course consisted of 12 100-min lectures and three research seminars (Table 1). The course was designed as an introduction to neuroimmune pharmacology for graduate students in both the Master's and Doctoral programs who had learned basic concepts in neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology.
Table 1

Neuroimmune pharmacology course in China Medical University 2008



Module 1

Introducing neuroimmune pharmacology

Module 2

Immunology of the nervous system: overview

Module 3

The blood–brain barrier

Seminar 1

The neuroimmune axis in health and disease

Module 4

Cytokines and chemokines

Module 5

Neuronal and glial signaling

Module 6

Neurodegeneration: overview

Module 7

Multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating diseases

Module 8

Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease

Seminar 2

Differential expression of cytokines during endotoxin tolerance

Seminar 3

Using rodent models to examine the bidirectional link between drug abuse and neuroAIDS

Module 9

Neurogenesis and brain disease

Module 10

Therapeutics: gene therapy and vaccination

Module 11

Therapeutics: neuroimaging

Module 12

Therapeutics: proteomics and genomics

The second course, entitled “Molecular Bioscience Reading” was conducted at Seton Hall University in the spring of 2010 as a part of the Molecular Bioscience Ph.D. program. In addition to having basic knowledge in neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology, the students in that course had completed most of the core courses, including research biostatistics, advanced molecular biology, recombinant technology, cell culture, and signal transduction. The theme of that course was “Readings in Neuroimmune Pharmacology in Health and Disease.” During the semester, the students were required to read and report on several research articles of their own choice, both review and original articles, which corresponded to some aspect of neuroimmune pharmacology (Table 2).
Table 2

Neuroimmune pharmacology reading course at Seton Hall University 2010




Alcohol and exploring the brain–liver–gut shunt


Opioid addiction and immunosuppression


Neurotoxicity of pesticides and Parkinson's disease


HIV-1 infection and neurodegenerative disorders


Signaling pathways in endotoxin tolerance


Neuroblastoma: a study in uncontrolled nerve cell growth


The correlation between brain development and breakdown of the nervous system


Role of stress factors in the withdrawal stage of addiction

At the completion of both of these two courses, the students were asked to provide feedback on course pre-requisites, course content, and teaching format as they pertained to the learning of neuroimmune pharmacology. Based on their suggestions, as well as the instructor's continuous self-assessment, the proposed course was developed as an elective to introduce neuroimmune pharmacology to graduate students in biological science programs. The pre-requisites for this course are (a) cell biology and (b) molecular biology. The overall goal in teaching this course is to educate future biological scientists in the basic principles and practices of neuroimmune pharmacology in the hope that they go on to apply their knowledge and training in various research areas of neuroimmune pharmacology and/or undertake new and productive research initiatives.

Course objectives

The objectives for this course are as follows:
  • Provide an overall framework of current knowledge in neuroimmune pharmacology as well as future advances in this field

  • Examine abnormalities of the nervous system associated with either unregulated immune responses or compromised immunity

  • Investigate pharmacological and experimental therapeutics to treat neuroimmune disorders.

Course pre-requisites

Advanced cell biology, molecular biology, and immunology are prerequisite courses.

Course content

The proposed Neuroimmune Pharmacology course will consist of six blocks designed to integrate several aspects of neuroimmune pharmacology and focus on the use of neuroimmune pharmacology in new research initiatives (Table 3). The six blocks are (1) Interdisciplinary Neuroimmune Pharmacology, (2) Communication Between the Cells of the Nervous and Immune Systems, (3) Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration, (4) Therapeutic Drugs for Neuroinflammatory Diseases, (5) Treatment of Neuroinflammatory Diseases, and (6) Applied Neuroimmune Pharmacology.
Table 3

Proposed syllabus

Block and module


Block 1

Interdisciplinary neuroimmune pharmacology

Module 1

Nervous and immune systems: bidirectional interactions

Module 2

Immunity of the central nervous system

Module 3

Central nervous system regulation of immune responses

Module 4

The blood–brain barrier

Module 5

The neuroimmune axis in health and disease

Module 6

Pharmacological approaches in neuroimmunology research

Block 2

Communication between the cells of the nervous and immune systems

Module 7

Cytokines and chemokines in the peripheral and central nervous systems

Module 8

Central nervous system cell signaling

Module 9

The brain in systemic immune challenges

Module 10

Neuroendocrinology and homeostasis

Block 3

Neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration

Module 11

Multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating diseases

Module 12

Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease

Module 13

Neurobehavioral disorders

Module 14


Module 15

Drug addiction and neuroinflammation

Module 16

Neurogenesis and brain disease

Block 4

Therapeutic drugs for neuroinflammatory diseases

Module 17

Neuropharmacology of neuronal inflammation

Module 18

Therapeutic drugs: development and challenges

Module 19

Drug delivery across the blood–brain barrier

Block 5

Treatment of neuroinflammatory diseases

Module 20

Gene therapy and vaccination

Module 21

Proteomics and genomics; microarray techniques in the diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders

Module 22


Module 23


Block 6

Applied neuroimmune pharmacology

  1. Block 1:

    Interdisciplinary Neuroimmune Pharmacology. Block 1 will introduce neuroimmune pharmacology as an interdisciplinary discipline. The fundamental components of both the nervous and immune systems will be reviewed with emphasis on the bi-directional interactions between the two systems. Immunity within the central nervous system (CNS) will be highlighted as well as how the CNS regulates immune functions and responses—the neuroimmune axis, which is highly regulated in health but may be unregulated in disease states, being one example. Studies on the blood–brain barrier (BBB) will focus on the role of the BBB in neurodegenerative diseases. This block will conclude with a discussion of pharmacological approaches and methodology that can be used to conduct research in the development of new therapies for immune disorders of the nervous system.

  2. Block 2:

    Communication Between the Cells of the Nervous and Immune Systems. This block will focus on the roles of cytokines and chemokines as signaling molecules in the coordination of immune responses throughout the body and, in particular, between the immune and nervous systems. Neuronal and glial cell signaling in physiological processes as well as in neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and neurogenesis will be studied. The nervous system, particularly the brain, will be explored in the course of systemic immune challenges. This block will also investigate how neuroendocrine active substances regulate various immune functions to achieve homeostasis.

  3. Block 3:

    Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration. Block 3 will focus on how inflammation in the CNS can eventually lead to neurodegeneration. The molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the onset and progression of disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, neuroAIDS, and drug addiction will be investigated. This block will conclude with the examination of the role of neurogenesis in the maintenance of the normal brain and in the repair of the brain following injury.

  4. Block 4:

    Therapeutic Drugs for Neuroinflammatory Diseases. The discovery and development of anti-neurodegenerative drugs will be studied in this block, specifically how endogenous immunoregulatory factors produced by both the nervous and endocrine systems, as well as drugs targeting the immune and endocrine systems, affect the immune system. Research and development of various drugs for neuronal disorders will be surveyed and reviewed. These will include, but not be limited to the cholinesterase inhibitors for Alzheimer's disease, levodopa and dopamine agonist for Parkinson's disease, and IFNβ-1a for multiple sclerosis. Finally, this block will conclude with a discussion of the various challenges in the development of anti-neurodegenerative drugs, including drug delivery across the BBB.

  5. Block 5:

    Treatment of Neuroinflammatory Diseases. The ultimate objective in studying neuroimmune pharmacology is to identify and develop more effective treatments for neuroinflammatory diseases. Representative drugs and therapeutic approaches in clinical trials as well as those agents still at the bench level will be discussed from molecular and cellular mechanistic prospectives in this block. The following representative therapies will be reviewed and discussed within this block: (1) therapy for neurodegenerative diseases including disease-specific therapy, neuroprotective therapy, and symptomatic therapy; (2) antiretroviral therapy; (3) immunomodulatory therapy; and (4) gene therapy and vaccination.

  6. Block 6:

    Applied Neuroimmune Pharmacology. This block is designed to stimulate the student's interest in the use of neuroimmune pharmacology in the molecular and cellular biological sciences. The students will be asked to present a poster and/or didactic lecture on one or more of the lecture topics and to provide a list of references and supplemental reading on that topic. The students will also be asked to devise and discuss ways to integrate neuroimmune pharmacology into the molecular and cellular biological sciences.


Course materials


  • An Overview: Neuroimmune Pharmacology. Tsuneya Ikezu and Howard E. Gendelman, Eds.; Kalipada Pahan, Serge Przedborski, Jonathan Kipnis, and Alexander Kabanov, Assoc. Eds. Publisher: Springer. ISBN: 978-0-387-72572-7

  • New Insights into Neuroimmune Biology. Istvan Berczi, Eds. Publisher: Elsevier. ISBN: 978-0-123-84691-4

Supplemental reading materials

Supplemental readings, including research articles, may be assigned. The reference journals used will include, but not be limited to, Neuroinflammation, Journal of Neurovirology, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Immunology, Journal of Virology, Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Brain Research.

Course format

The course will consist of both lectures and student oral presentations. The lectures will be delivered in two consecutive 1-h lectures covering one or two modules per week. The ideal class size is eight to 12 students.

Course policies


There will be three exams—a placement exam at the first class meeting, a midterm exam, and a final exam. The placement exam will assess the student's current knowledge of neuroscience, immunology, and pharmacology and their readiness for the proposed course content. Both the midterm and final exams are take-home exams.

In addition to numerical or letter grades given based on the three examinations, the Course Instructor will meet with each student to discuss the course, provide advice, and get feedback about the course.

Academic integrity

A Professionalism and Academic Integrity Policy should be included as part of the syllabus.

Americans with Disabilities Act

A Disability Services Statement should be included as a part of the syllabus.


Preparation of this manuscript was supported, in part, by the National Institutes of Health grants DA016149 and DA007058 (SLC).

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010