Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Acute psychological stress promotes skin healing in mice


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

Jeffrey Norris | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: SFVAMC UCSF anti-inflammatory exposure glucocorticoids skin steroids

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>