However, we still have a relatively limited understanding of exactly how stress contributes to the risk for illness. In the August 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, researchers shed new light on one link between stress and illness by describing a mechanism through which stress alters immune function.
In a very promising preliminary study, Miller and colleagues found that the pattern of gene expression differed between caregivers of family members with cancer relative to a matched group of individuals who did not have this type of life stress.
They found that among the caregivers, even though they had normal cortisol levels in their blood, the pattern of gene expression in the monocytes, a type of white blood cell involved in the body’s immune response, was altered so that they were relatively less responsive to the anti-inflammatory actions of cortisol, but relatively more responsive to pro-inflammatory actions of a transcription factor called nuclear factor-kappa B, or NF-?B. Gregory Miller, Ph.D., corresponding author, explains more simply that, although “caregivers have similar cortisol levels as controls, their cells seem to be ‘hearing’ less of this signal. In other words, something goes awry in caregivers’ white blood cells so they are not able to ‘receive’ the signal from cortisol that tells them to shut down inflammation.”
Thus, the current findings might help to explain why the caregivers would seem to be in a chronic pro-inflammatory state, a condition of immunologic activation. This activated state could contribute to the risk for a number of medical illnesses, such as depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Dr. Miller remarks that part of the importance of these findings is “because people have traditionally thought that higher cortisol is the reason that stress contributes to disease, but this work shows that, at least in caregivers, it's actually the opposite - there's too little cortisol signal being heard by the cells, rather than too much.”
However, many important related questions still remain unanswered, as noted by John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. He comments that in addition to not knowing how stress produces these altered patterns of gene expression in the immune system, “we don’t know how to account for the resilience of some stressed people exposed to severe sustained stress or the vulnerability of some people to relatively mild stress.” He adds that “the better that we understand the underlying molecular mechanisms that link stress to illness, the more likely we are to make progress in answering these important questions,” and this article is certainly a vital step in that direction.
Jayne Dawkins | alfa
How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism
19.01.2018 | Weill Cornell Medicine
Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy