COLUMBUS, Ohio Researchers here have linked an increase in two immune system proteins essential for inflammation to a latent viral infection and proposed a chain of events that might accelerate cardiovascular disease.
The same process may be involved in a host of other ailments plaguing the elderly.
The findings also suggest that chronic depression may play a key role in starting the cascade that can lead to the buildup of plaques clogging coronary arteries.
The researchers' report, their latest in a nearly three-decade-long effort to understand the role psychological stress plays in weakening the immune system, was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Ronald Glaser, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University , said, To me, this suggests a new way of thinking about how these diseases develop. We carry around these latent herpes viruses in our bodies virtually all our lives and periodically they can hurt us, inducing biological events that could lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
Glaser, head of Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, has focused for years on Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), one of eight different herpesviruses that can remain dormant in the body for a lifetime.
Perhaps more than 90 percent of the people in North America have been infected by EBV by the time they're adults, Glaser said. Virtually everybody in the country is carrying this virus.
Glaser, James Waldman, an associate professor of pathology, Marshall Williams, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry and psychology, initially focused on the role that two essential proteins interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) -- play in producing inflammation, a major part of the body's immune response.
As the immune system ages
|Contact: Ronald Glaser|
Ohio State University