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Social Stress Could Worsen MS

Mouse study suggests it spurs inflammatory processes

FRIDAY, Aug. 17, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic social stress may aggravate neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), U.S. researchers report.

The team at Texas A&M University also said certain interventions may prevent or halt stress-related inflammation, however.

In experiments on mice, the researchers found that social stress increased central nervous system (CNS) inflammation. Stress appeared to elevate levels of a cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6), which led to increased severity of MS-like illness in the mice.

Cytokines are pro-inflammatory proteins that regulate immune and inflammatory functions.

The researchers also found that giving the mice IL-6 neutralizing antibody treatments during stressful events prevented the stress-related worsening of the MS-like disease.

The findings were to be presented Friday at the American Psychological Association's annual convention, in San Francisco.

Lead researcher Dr. Mary Meagher noted that, "people exposed to chronic social conflict experience high levels of stress and consequent dysregulation of the immune system, thereby increasing vulnerability to infectious and autoimmune disease."

"The cytokine response during chronic stress appears to play a key role in exacerbating the acute CNS (central nervous system) infection and the development of subsequent autoimmune responses," she said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about MS.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Aug. 17, 2007
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