The findings suggest that feelings of social isolation are linked to alterations in immune system activity, which result in increased inflammatory signalling within the body. This is the first study to show an alteration in genome-wide transcriptional activity linked to a social epidemiological risk factor. It provides a molecular framework for understanding why social factors are linked to an increased risk of diseases where inflammation is thought to be a factor, such as heart disease, infection and cancer.
It is already known that a person’s social environment can affect their health, with those who are socially isolated suffering from higher all-cause mortality, and higher rates of cancer, infection and heart disease. Researchers are trying to determine whether these adverse health consequences result from of reduced social resources (e.g., physical or economic assistance) or from the biological impact of social isolation on the function of the human body. “What this study shows us,” said lead author Dr. Steven Cole, of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, “is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes – the activity of our genes.”
In their study, Dr. Cole and colleagues at UCLA and the University of Chicago used DNA microarrays to survey the activity of all known human genes in white blood cells from 14 individuals in the Chicago Health, Aging and Social Relations Study. Six participants scored in the top 15% of the UCLA Loneliness Scale (a widely used measure of loneliness that was developed in the 1970s), the others scored in the bottom 15%. The researchers found 209 transcripts were differentially expressed between the two groups, with 78 being overexpressed and 131 underexpressed. “The leukocyte transcriptome appears to be remodelled in chronically lonely individuals,” said Dr. Cole.
Genes overexpressed in high-lonely individuals included many involved in immune system activation and inflammation. However, several key gene sets were underexpressed, including those involved in antiviral responses and antibody production. Bioinformatics analyses identified some of the biological signalling pathways that shaped these differences in gene expression, including reduced activity of the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid pathway and the pro-inflammatory NF-?B/Rel pathway. “These findings provide molecular targets for our efforts to block the adverse health effects of social isolation,” said Dr. Cole.
“In this study, changes in immune cell gene expression were specifically linked to the subjective experience of social distance,” said Dr. Cole. “The differences we observed were independent of other known risk factors for inflammation, such as health status, age, weight, and medication use. The changes were even independent of the objective size of a person’s social network. What counts, at the level of gene expression, is not how many people you know, it’s how many you feel really close to over time.” In the future, the transcriptional fingerprint identified by Cole and colleagues might become useful as a ‘biomarker’ to monitor interventions designed to reduce the impact of loneliness on health.
Charlotte Webber | alfa
When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality
22.05.2020 | Technische Universität Dresden
From artificial meat to fine-tuning photosynthesis: Food System Innovation – and how to get there
20.05.2020 | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.
Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...
Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.
A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...
By studying the chemical elements on Mars today -- including carbon and oxygen -- scientists can work backwards to piece together the history of a planet that once had the conditions necessary to support life.
Weaving this story, element by element, from roughly 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away is a painstaking process. But scientists aren't the type...
Study co-led by Berkeley Lab reveals how wavelike plasmons could power up a new class of sensing and photochemical technologies at the nanoscale
Wavelike, collective oscillations of electrons known as "plasmons" are very important for determining the optical and electronic properties of metals.
Proteins, the microscopic “workhorses” that perform all the functions essential to life, are team players: in order to do their job, they often need to assemble into precise structures called protein complexes. These complexes, however, can be dynamic and short-lived, with proteins coming together but disbanding soon after.
In a new paper published in PNAS, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the University of Oxford, and Sorbonne...
19.05.2020 | Event News
07.04.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Event News
22.05.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
22.05.2020 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2020 | Materials Sciences