Lonely People Over-Express Inflammatory Genes
Findings could explain why loneliness is associated with increased risk of several inflammatory conditions
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Chronically lonely individuals over-express immune system genes involved in a pro-inflammatory pathway, according to research published in Genome Biology in September, which may explain why loneliness is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory diseases.
Steve W. Cole, of the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues used a genomics-based strategy to identify genes that are over-expressed or under-expressed in the leukocytes of people reporting chronic loneliness.
The researchers identified 209 genes that were expressed in different levels in the leukocytes of 14 highly lonely individuals, including decreased expression of the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid response elements and over-expression of genes involved in a pro-inflammatory pathway. The researchers showed that changes could not be explained by differences in circulating cortisol levels or demographic, medical or psychological factors.
"These data identify a distinct transcriptional fingerprint of subjective social isolation in human leukocytes, which involves increased basal expression of inflammatory and immune response genes," write the authors. "These leukocyte transcriptional dynamics are consistent with clinical data indicating a complex pattern of host resistance alterations in social isolates, including increased risk of inflammation-mediated disease, accompanied by decreased resistance to viral infection and impaired humoral immune response."