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New research shows how chronic stress worsens neurodegenerative disease course
Date:8/17/2007

SAN FRANCISCO The evidence is accumulating on how bad stress is for health. Chronic stress can intensify inflammation and increase a persons risk for developing central nervous system infections, neurodegenerative diseases, like multiple sclerosis (MS), and other inflammatory diseases, say researchers presenting at the 115th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA). These researchers have demonstrated for the first time that stress-related increases in central nervous system inflammation are behind the adverse effects of stress in an animal model of MS.

Researchers from Texas A & M University used mice to show what role social stress plays in the immune process to influence the course of an MS-like disease. They proposed that stress-induced increases of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that regulate immune and inflammatory functions, inhibit the clearing of a virus and allow the inflammatory process to run amok. Stress, say the authors, may interact with viral infections to increase vulnerability to diseases such as MS. Meta-analysis of studies investigating the impact of stressful events in patients with MS show an increased risk of worsening symptoms of the disease.

In a series of experiments on mice, the authors showed that increases in a particular cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is released during stress and regulates the part of the immune system that fights infection can make socially stressed mice vulnerable to MS-like illnesses.

The researchers used a social disruption model (SDR) to simulate social stress for mice and then infected the mice with Theilers murine encephalomyelitis (TMEV). Infection with TMEV results in an acute infection of the central nervous system followed by a chronic autoimmune disease similar to that seen in humans with MS. Their laboratory has previously shown that exposure to social stress prior to infection exacerbates both the early viral infection
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Contact: Pam Willenz
pwillenz@apa.org
202-336-5707
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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