Strong Immune System May Protect Women From Loneliness-Linked lllness

Rat study showed males have much weaker responses after prolonged isolation

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TUESDAY, Feb. 28, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A stronger immune system may help explain why women are less likely to become ill in the face of isolation and loneliness than men, research in rats suggests.

This more robust immune response in females may be related to the demands of motherhood, the U.S. researchers speculated.

According to a team from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin, female rats that were socially isolated for three months and then subjected to 30 minutes of acute physical stress had a "staggeringly stronger" inflammatory immune response than male rats subjected to the same conditions.

The 30 minutes of stress involved being placed in a restraint tube that simulated a collapsed burrow. About two weeks after that stressful experience, both the female and male rats were injected with a substance meant to challenge their inflammatory immune response, which responds to bacteria, viruses and parasites.

The female rats has a much faster healing response than male rats following the injections, the researchers said.

They believe the findings add to a growing body of knowledge about male/female health disparities and may help explain why socially isolated men are more vulnerable to disease and death than socially isolated women.

Inflammatory response is an important immune response involved in heart disease, infectious disease, cancer and other kinds of health problems.

The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stress and disease.

SOURCE: American Physiological Society news, release, Feb. 27, 2006

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