Naturally-occurring steroids, which damage skin during prolonged stress, can be beneficial over shorter periods, say UCSF researchers
Brief, acute psychological stress promoted healing in mouse models of three different types of skin irritations, in a study led by UC San Francisco researchers.
The scientists found that healing was brought about by the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids – steroid hormones – produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress.
"Under chronic stress, these same naturally-occurring steroids damage the protective functions of normal skin and inhibit wound healing, but during shorter intervals of stress, they are beneficial for inflammatory disorders and acute injury in both mice and humans," said senior investigator Peter Elias, MD, a UCSF professor of dermatology based at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).
"We believe that our findings explain why this otherwise harmful component of the stress response has been preserved during human evolution," he said.
The study was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on August 7, 2014, in advance of print publication in the journal.
The scientists studied mouse models of three types of common skin irritations: irritant contact dermatitis, caused by exposure to an irritant such as a soap or solvent; acute allergic contact dermatitis, of the sort caused by poison ivy or poison oak; and atopic dermatitis, or eczema.
After exposure to irritants on a small patch of skin on one ear, one group of mice was returned to its regular cages, while another group was put in a stressful situation – being placed in very small enclosures for 18 hours a day over the course of four days.
The researchers found that the stressed mice showed significantly reduced inflammation and faster healing in all three types of skin irritation.
When stressed mice were simultaneously given mifepristone, which blocks steroid action, all of the healing benefits of stress disappeared. "This demonstrated the central role of internal steroids in providing these benefits," said Elias.
He noted that other researchers have recently proposed that psychological stress has a potential role in promoting healing, "but that work has focused on the immune system rather than glucocorticoids as the responsible, beneficial mediator."
According to Elias, the study provides a clue to an evolutionary puzzle: why, over millions of years, humans have preserved the tendency to produce steroids under stress. Previous research by Elias's laboratory and others has demonstrated that prolonged exposure to steroids harms both the structure and function of skin and other organs.
"Our ancestors did not have an arsenal of pharmaceutical steroids available to treat acute illnesses or injuries," Elias observed. "This safe, effective internal anti-inflammatory system provides just the correct amount of steroids to promote healing, over a time interval that is too short to cause harm."
Elias emphasized that the study did not look at the implications for human medical treatments. However, he contrasted the "substantial benefits" seen from modest increases in glucocorticoid levels brought on by short-term stress with the "adverse effects that we see all too commonly" with steroid therapy. Elias speculated that those negative effects could be the result of "overly aggressive treatment – too high doses, and perhaps for unnecessarily prolonged treatment intervals."
He said that while his research team did not study other kinds of inflammatory disorders, "the same benefits of psychological stress should accrue in any acute illness or injury."
Co-authors of the study are Mao-Qiang Man, MD, of SFVAMC and UCSF; Juan-Luis Santiago, MD, of SFVAMC, UCSF, and Hospital General Universitario del Ciudad Real, Spain; Melanie Hupe of SFVAMC and UCSF; Gemma Martin-Ezquerra, MD, of Hospital del Mar-IMIM, Barcelona, Spain; Jong-Kyum Youm, PhD, and Tammy Zhai of SFVAMC and UCSF; Carles Trullas, PhD, of ISDIN, Barcelona; and Kenneth R. Feingold, MD, of SFVAMC and UCSF.
The study was funded by the SFVAMC and the National Institutes of Health.
UCSF is the nation's leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco. Please visit http://www.ucsf.edu.
Jeffrey Norris | Eurek Alert!
Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies
30.03.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine
30.03.2017 | University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering