Navigation Links
Why getting healthy can seem worse than getting sick
Date:3/20/2012

A new article in The Quarterly Review of Biology helps explain why the immune system often makes us worse while trying to make us well.

The research offers a new perspective on a component of the immune system known as the acute-phase response, a series of systemic changes in blood protein levels, metabolic function, and physiology that sometimes occurs when bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens invade the body. This response puts healthy cells and tissue under serious stress, and is actually the cause of many of the symptoms we associate with being sick.

"The question is why would these harmful components evolve," asks Edmund LeGrand (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), who wrote the paper titled with Joe Alcock (University of New Mexico). The researchers contend that answer becomes clear when we view the acute-phase response in terms of what they call "immune brinksmanship."

The immune brinksmanship model "is the gamble that systemic stressors will harm the pathogens relatively more than the host," LeGrand said. The concept, he explains, is akin to what happens in international trade disputes. When one country places trade sanctions on another, both countries' economies take a hit, but the sanctioning country is betting that its opponent will be hurt more.

"One of our contributions here is to pull together the reasons why pathogens suffer more from systemic stress," LeGrand said.

The acute-phase response creates stress in several ways. It raises body temperature and causes loss of appetite and mild anemia. At the same time, certain vital nutrients like iron, zinc, and manganese are partially sequestered away from the bloodstream.

Some of these components are quite puzzling. Why reduce food intake just when one would expect more energy would be needed to mount a strong immune response? Zinc is essential for healthy immune function. Why pull it out of the bloodstream when the immune system is active? The benefits of a stressor like fever are fairly well known; heat has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth and cause infected cells to self-destruct. But what hasn't been clear is why pathogens should be more susceptible to this stress than the host.

LeGrand and Alcock offer some answers. For an infection to spread, pathogens need to multiply, whereas host cells can defer replication. Replication makes DNA and newly forming proteins much more susceptible to damage. It also requires energy and nutrientswhich helps explain the benefits of restricting food and sequestering nutrients.

The act of invading a body also requires bacteria to alter their metabolism, which can make them more vulnerable to all kinds of stress, including heat.

Another reason pathogens are more vulnerable to stress is that the immune system is already pummeling them with white blood cells and related stressors at the site of the infection. That means that pathogens are already under local stress when systemic stressors are piled on. "In many ways, the acute-phase response reinforces the stress inflicted on pathogens locally at the infection site," LeGrand said.

As the term "brinksmanship" implies, there's an inherent risk in a strategy that involves harming oneself to hurt the enemy within. This self-harm leaves the body more vulnerable to other dangers, including other infections. Additionally, it is possible for the immune stressors to do more damage than required to control the pathogens.

"But in general, systemic stressors when properly regulated do preferential harm to invaders," LeGrand said. Viewed this way, it's not surprising that natural selection has utilized the stressful parts of the acute-phase response in mammals, reptiles, fish, and even invertebrates.


'/>"/>
Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
401-284-3878
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Getting cancer cells to swallow poison
2. Panama REDD: Getting what you pay for
3. Pregnant women in Vancouver may not be getting enough vitamin D
4. Getting 50-year-old Americans as healthy as Europeans could save Medicare and Medicaid $632 billion by 2050
5. Americans still may not be getting enough calcium
6. Getting closer to a better biocontrol for garden pests
7. Getting organized: Berkeley Lab study shows how breast cell communities organize into breast tissue
8. Getting rid of cattle fever ticks
9. Getting a tail up on conservation?
10. Warning system inadequate to prevent swimmers from getting sick at inland lakes
11. Getting a step ahead of pathogens
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/15/2016)... , April 15, 2016 ... "Global Gait Biometrics Market 2016-2020,"  report to their ... ) , ,The global gait biometrics market ... 13.98% during the period 2016-2020. Gait ... which can be used to compute factors that ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... 2016   LegacyXChange, ... "Company") LegacyXChange is excited to release its ... to be launched online site for trading 100% guaranteed ... will also provide potential shareholders a sense of the ... an industry that is notorious for fraud. The video ...
(Date:3/23/2016)... March 23, 2016 ... Sicherheit Gesichts- und Stimmerkennung mit Passwörtern ... (NASDAQ: MESG ), ein führender Anbieter ... Unternehmen mit SpeechPro zusammenarbeitet, um erstmals dessen ... wird die Möglichkeit angeboten, im Rahmen mobiler ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita ... miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of ... now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...   Boston Biomedical , an industry leader ... target cancer stemness pathways, announced that its lead ... Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ... gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin is an orally ... stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, and is currently ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has signed ... to serve as their official health care provider. ... will provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, and ... volunteers, athletes and families. "We are ... and to bring Houston Methodist quality services and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a university competition that asks ... systems and biotechnology, announced its winning teams at the ... York City . The teams, chosen ... MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during the daylong summit. Keynote ... of architecture and design, and Suzanne Lee , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: