Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A Little Stress May Go A Long Way Toward Boosting Skin's Immunity

Date:
February 9, 2004
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
A series of studies in rats and mice suggests that short bouts of stress increase the skin's ability to fight infections and heal minor wounds.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A series of studies in rats and mice suggests that short bouts of stress increase the skin's ability to fight infections and heal minor wounds.

The immune response of animals exposed to acute stress – about two hours of restraint – was two to four times higher compared to non-stressed animals. This was true when the animals' skin was treated with chemical or protein antigens immediately after a stressful event. An antigen is any substance that the immune system reacts to by producing cells and antibodies.

Stress plus exposure to the antigen triggered an immune response that remained strong for weeks to several months later, when the animals were re-exposed to the irritant without further restraint.

"Acutely stressed animals had a much more vigorous immune response when they were first exposed to the antigen," said Firdaus Dhabhar, an associate professor of oral biology and molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University.

"That boost to immunity seemed to last, as these animals' immune systems also showed a powerful response when re-exposed to the antigen much later."

Control animals showed a normal immune response to the antigen upon re-exposure, but nowhere near that of the animals that had been stressed.

Dhabhar will give an overview of a decade's worth of research on the effects of acute stress on skin immunity on February 10 at the annual American Academy of Dermatology meeting in Washington, D.C.

In several laboratory studies, researchers compared the immune responses of rats and mice that were restrained for two hours immediately before exposure to the antigen to control animals that were not restrained.

"Gentle restraint, or confinement, creates psychological stress," Dhabhar said. "As a result, heart rate increases, as do blood pressure and circulating levels of stress hormones. All are characteristic signs of a normal stress response, and all subside within a few hours after the stressful situation ends."

The researchers assessed the magnitude of immune responses by measuring the degree of inflammation at the initial site of antigen administration. They examined the types of cells and proteins – indicators of immune system activity – that were present, and in what amounts.

Animals were exposed to the same antigen, this time at a different place on the body, a few weeks to several months later. The researchers again measured immune responses.

"The stressed animals had a much more powerful immune response to the antigen, compared to the non-stressed animals," Dhabhar said. "And the stressed animals' immune systems continued to stay strong, too, as shown by the later tests."

Short-term stress had boosted the animals' immune responses two to four times over the response of the non-stressed mice, an effect the researchers saw when the animals were first exposed to the antigen. The researchers saw the same results when animals were again exposed to the antigen a few weeks to several months later.

"The more robust initial immune reaction might have formed a more efficient, or larger, pool of memory cells that ultimately gave the stressed animals' immune systems a continued immune advantage months later," Dhabhar said.

Memory cells "remember" a specific antigen – a substance that the immune system reacts to by forming cells and antibodies. Years and even decades later memory cells can launch an intense attack against the same antigen.

Dhabhar likens the body's immune response to waging a war: Soldiers, in the form of immune cells and proteins, travel from the barracks (the spleen) through blood-vessel boulevards to potential battle stations in the skin. This process speeds up during brief bouts of stress.

"During both the initial and secondary exposures, the stressed animals' immune responses occurred at a faster rate and were significantly elevated for several days compared to control animals," Dhabhar said, adding that while this effect may be beneficial for healing a wound and fighting infections, it could also spell trouble for people with skin allergies or inflammatory disorders such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and arthritis.

"In many of these diseases, the immune system attacks the body and causes inflammation and other serious problems," Dhabhar said. "Anything that boosts the immune response can cause more damage. But learning how the immune system mobilizes these inflammation-causing cells could possibly help scientists develop therapeutic targets for such diseases."

Learning how the body mobilizes an immune response during stress could also give researchers insight into creating more effective vaccines.

"The whole point of vaccination is to generate more memory cells," Dhabhar said. "The way the stressed animals' immune systems responded to the antigen the second time around suggests that acute stress may help generate more of these memory cells.

"Most people believe that stress weakens the immune system and increases susceptibility to infection, yet the benefits of acute stress make sense from an evolutionary standpoint," he said. "Short-term stress activates protective biological mechanisms that are essential for survival."

Support for this work came from the National Institutes of Health and The Dana Foundation Clinical Hypotheses Program in Mind Body Medicine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "A Little Stress May Go A Long Way Toward Boosting Skin's Immunity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040209080531.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2004, February 9). A Little Stress May Go A Long Way Toward Boosting Skin's Immunity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040209080531.htm
Ohio State University. "A Little Stress May Go A Long Way Toward Boosting Skin's Immunity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040209080531.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola. Health experts credit a bit of luck and the government's initial response. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) An ingredient in erectile-dysfunction medications such as Viagra could improve heart function. Perhaps not surprising, given Viagra's history. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he expects revised CDC protocols on Ebola to focus on training, observation and ensuring health care workers are more protected. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins