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!
Using fragment-based approaches to discover new antibiotics
21.06.2018 | SLAS (Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening)
Scientists learn more about how gene linked to autism affects brain
19.06.2018 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.
Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.06.2018 | Life Sciences