Here's how stress may be making you sick

January 10, 2018 by Caleb Hoover, Michigan State University
Here's how stress may be making you sick
Adam Moeser, an endowed chair and associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, specializes in stress-induced diseases. Credit: Michigan State University

A Michigan State University researcher is providing new insight into how certain types of stress interact with immune cells and can regulate how these cells respond to allergens, ultimately causing physical symptoms and disease.

The federally funded study, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, showed how a stress receptor, known as corticotropin-releasing factor, or CRF1, can send signals to certain , called , and control how they defend the body.

"Mast cells become highly activated in response to stressful situations the body may be experiencing," said Adam Moeser, an associate professor and endowed chair who specializes in stress-induced diseases. "When this happens, CRF1 tells these cells to release chemical substances that can lead to inflammatory and allergic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, life-threatening food allergies and autoimmune disorders such as lupus."

One chemical substance, histamine, is known to help the body get rid of invading allergens such as pollen, dust mites or the protein of a particular food like a peanut or shellfish. The histamine causes an allergic reaction and in a normal response, helps the body clear the allergen from its system.

If a patient has a severe allergy or is under a lot of stress, then this same response can be amplified, resulting in more severe symptoms ranging from trouble breathing, anaphylactic shock or possibly even death.

During the study, Moeser compared the histamine responses of to two types of stress conditions - psychological and allergic - where the immune system becomes overworked. One group of mice was considered "normal" with CRF1 receptors on their mast cells and the other group had that lacked CRF1.

"While the 'normal' mice exposed to stress exhibited high histamine levels and disease, the mice without CRF1 had low levels, less disease and were protected against both types of stress," Moeser said. "This tells us that CRF1 is critically involved in some diseases initiated by these stressors."

The CRF1-deficient mice exposed to allergic stress had a 54 percent reduction in disease, while those mice who experienced psychological stress had a 63 percent decrease.

The results could change the way everyday disorders such as asthma and the debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms of are treated.

"We all know that stress affects the mind-body connection and increases the risk for many diseases," Moeser said. "The question is, how?"

"This work is a critical step forward in decoding how stress makes us sick and provides a new target pathway in the mast cell for therapies to improve the quality of life of people suffering from common -related diseases."

Explore further: CRF1 stress receptor is regulator of mast cell activity during stress

Related Stories

CRF1 stress receptor is regulator of mast cell activity during stress

November 30, 2017
A new study published online in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology provides new insight into how stress, through signaling of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), interacts with cells in the immune system to cause disease. ...

Why male immune cells are from Mars and female cells are from Venus

February 7, 2017
Michigan State University researchers are the first to uncover reasons why a specific type of immune cell acts very differently in females compared to males while under stress, resulting in women being more susceptible to ...

Allergy amplifier implicated in asthma also intensifies food allergy

November 13, 2017
Almost eight percent of children under three years old and four percent of adults suffer food allergies, which trigger not only discomfiting symptoms like dermatitis and diarrhea but can cause deadly anaphylactic shock. Allergic ...

Stress gene regulates brain cell power and connections in rodents

January 2, 2018
A gene activated by stress adjusts energy output and synapse number of prefrontal cortex neurons, finds a study of male mice and rats published in JNeurosci. The results were validated in brain tissue of deceased patients ...

New treatment for allergic response targets mast cells

November 21, 2016
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have developed a method that stops allergic reactions by removing a key receptor from mast cells and basophils. Their work has implications ...

Blockade of histamine receptors suppresses intestinal anaphylaxis in peanut allergy

May 25, 2016
Simultaneous pre-treatment with antihistamines that block both the H1 and H4 antihistamine receptors suppressed the gastrointestinal symptoms of food allergy in mice, according to researchers at National Jewish Health. The ...

Recommended for you

Newly identified T cells could play a role in cancer and other diseases

December 6, 2018
Researchers from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology have identified a new type of T cell called a phospholipid-reactive T cell that is able to recognize phospholipids, the ...

Classifying brain microglia: Which are good and which are bad?

December 6, 2018
Microglia are known to be important to brain function. The immune cells have been found to protect the brain from injury and infection and are critical during brain development, helping circuits wire properly. They also seem ...

Memory B cells in the lung may be important for more effective influenza vaccinations

December 5, 2018
Seasonal influenza vaccines are typically less than 50 percent effective, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies. Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, published this week in Nature ...

Tuberculosis survives by using host system against itself, study finds

December 5, 2018
In a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, scientists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that the pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) releases RNA into infected cells. This RNA stimulates ...

RSV study reveals age when infants are most vulnerable to asthma

December 5, 2018
New research suggests a maternal vaccination against RSV should be augmented with active immunisation in a child's first two years to reduce the onset of asthma.

New Zika vaccine effective in preclinical trials

December 4, 2018
Researchers at the University of Hawaii medical school have successfully developed a vaccine candidate for the Zika virus, showing that it is effective in protecting both mice and monkeys from the infection.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.