A new study from scientists at the University of Ohio discovered that chronic stress alters gene activity in the body’s immune cells. This change causes the cells to prepare for infections that don’t exist, triggering inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. The researchers made the discovery while studying mice. Colleagues at other universities and research labs tested blood samples from poor people and found many had the primed immune cells.
“The cells share many of the same characteristics in terms of their response to stress,” co-lead author of the study, Dr. John Sheridan, said. “There is a stress-induced alteration in the bone marrow in both our mouse model and in chronically stressed humans that selects for a cell that’s going to be pro-inflammatory.
“So what this suggests is that if you’re working for a really bad boss over a long period of time, that experience may play out at the level of gene expression in your immune system.”
The study reports that anti-depressants could be used with other medications to protect against chronic stress. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.