Research led by Professor Scott Mueller, Laboratory Head at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, discovered that signals produced by nerves in response to stress can stop immune cells from effectively fighting pathogens or tumours. The study was carried out using an advanced imaging technique, known as ‘intravital microscopy’ to look at how stress affects cells in the immune system of mice.
While the findings of this study are promising, intravital microscopy is very difficult to do in humans as it requires body tissue. Professor Mueller explains, “We know anecdotally that when we are stressed, we are more likely to get sick, but exactly why this occurs has been difficult to define, until now. The imaging showed us that stress caused immune cells to stop moving, preventing them from protecting against disease,”. Professor Mullen revealed it was different types of immune cells that were affected, and that it can occur in many different parts of the body.
Knowing how our immune system responds to stress makes it important to manage stress in our day to day.
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