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A little stress gives beneficial oomph! to immune system

New research in mice provides more evidence that a brief bout of stress can give the immune system a beneficial boost ?under certain conditions.

Laboratory results showed that acute stress ?stress that lasts for minutes to hours ?temporarily mobilized all major types of immune cells, or leukocytes to potential battle stations in the body. In certain situations, this stress-induced boost in the number of immune cells may be advantageous, as leukocytes fight infections and other diseases.

Stressed mice had much higher numbers of leukocytes arriving at critical defense organs, such as the skin, than did non-stressed mice.

"Acute stress could help increase immune protection," said Firdaus Dhabhar, the study's lead author and an associate professor of oral biology and molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University. "An increase in leukocyte activity and availability may enhance the immune system's ability to protect the body during surgery, vaccination or during an infection".

But there is also a downside ?ushering an increased number of immune cells to sites of potential immune reaction could worsen pre-existing inflammatory illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or gingivitis, and autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis or psoriasis. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks the body.

"Understanding mechanisms that mobilize leukocytes to potential battle stations during stress could help us figure out ways to boost the immune response when it could be most helpful to do so, such as during surgery, vaccination or infection," Dhabhar said. "And it could also help us tone down the immune response during inflammatory diseases."

Dhabhar and Kavitha Viswanathan, a graduate research associate in oral biology at Ohio State, reported their findings online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The current study is one of a number of studies conducte
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Source:Ohio State University


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