Following traumatic peripheral nerve injury, adequate restoration of function remains an elusive clinical goal. Recent research highlights the complex role that the immune system plays in both nerve injury and regeneration. Pro-regenerative processes in wounded soft tissues appear to be significantly mediated by cytokines of the type 2 immune response, notably interleukin (IL)-4. While IL-4 signaling has been firmly established as a critical element in general tissue regeneration during wound healing, it has also emerged as a critical process in nerve injury and regeneration. In this context of peripheral nerve injury, endogenous IL-4 signaling has recently been confirmed to influence more than leukocytes, but including also neurons, axons, and Schwann cells. Given the role IL-4 plays in nerve injury and regeneration, exogenous IL-4 and/or compounds targeting this signaling pathway have shown encouraging preliminary results to treat nerve injury or other neuropathy in rodent models. In particular, the exogenous stimulation of the IL-4 signaling pathway appears to promote postinjury neuron survival, axonal regeneration, remyelination, and thereby improved functional recovery. These preclinical data strongly suggest that targeting IL-4 signaling pathways is a promising translational therapy to augment treatment approaches of traumatic nerve injury. However, a better understanding of the type 2 immune response and associated signaling networks functioning within the nerve injury microenvironment is still needed to fully develop this promising therapeutic avenue.
- peripheral nerve