Stress May Strengthen Skin's Immunity
Ohio State University studies using mice and rats suggest that brief
bouts of stress enhance the skin's ability to fight infections and heal
Researchers found that when rodents were exposed to acute
stress, in the form of about two hours of restraint, their immune
response was two to four times greater than non-stressed rats and mice.
This increased immune response was true when the rodents' skin was
treated with chemical or protein antigens immediately after the animals
were exposed to the acute stress.
An antigen is any substance the immune system reacts to by producing cells and antibodies.
In these animals, the stress combined with antigen exposure
triggered an immune response that remained strong for weeks to several
months, at which point the animals were re-exposed to the antigen but
were not restrained.
"That boost to immunity seemed to last, as these animals' immune
systems showed a powerful response when re-exposed to the antigen much
later," researcher Firdaus Dhabhar, an associate professor of oral
biology and molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, says
in a prepared statement.
Learning more about this kind of immune system response could
help scientists develop new ways to treat skin allergies and diseases
and create more effective vaccines.
The findings will be presented Feb. 10 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Washington, D.C.