Manuscript Title: Cerebral Motor and Fear Circuits Regulate Leukocytes During Acute Stress
Log: Nature – Lifting of the embargo on May 30, 11am EST
Corresponding author: Filip Swirski, PhD, director of the Institute for Cardiovascular Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Conclusion : Acute stress can be detrimental to the fight against infection, especially COVID-19, and increases the risk of death in mouse models.
This study is the first to show how specific regions of the brain control the body’s cellular immune response when acutely stressed and infected with COVID-19 or influenza. Specifically, he demonstrated that acute stress triggers neurons in the region known as the paraventricular hypothalamus to instantly trigger a large-scale migration of white blood cells (immune cells or leukocytes) from the lymph nodes to the blood and bone marrow. This decreases the immune response to viruses such as COVID-19 and influenza, making the body less resistant to fighting infection and putting it at increased risk of complications and death.
Why it matters: This fundamental discovery linking the brain to the immune system provides insight into how stress affects the body’s response to a virus and why some may be more susceptible to serious illnesses and worse outcomes.
How the research was conducted/results: First, the researchers examined groups of relaxed and stressed mouse models and analyzed their immune systems. Within minutes, the acutely stressed mice showed great changes in their immune systems compared to the group of relaxed mice. Specifically, stress induced a major migration of the body’s immune cells from one location to another. The investigators wanted to explain this phenomenon. Using sophisticated tools such as optogenetics and chemogenetics, researchers discovered that neurons in the paraventricular hypothalamus stimulate immune cells to migrate from the lymph nodes to the blood and bone marrow.
Next, the researchers went further to analyze how mice in the relaxed and stressed models compared when infected with influenza and COVID-19. They noticed that the mice in the relaxed group fared better than those in the stressed group: they fought the infection better and got rid of the virus more easily. The mice in the stressed group were sicker, had less immunity, and had a higher death rate from the virus. The researchers also explored how other regions of the brain related to motor function control different types of immune cells traveling from the bone marrow to the blood.
conclusion: Distinct brain regions shape the distribution and function of leukocytes throughout the body during acute stress in mice. The effect of stress on white blood cells and its negative impact on fighting a virus is important to better understand the results and find ways to improve immunity. If white blood cells continually enter the bloodstream, this could also have implications for cardiovascular health.
What this means for clinicians/patients: This study is an important example of how the brain controls inflammation and how it relates to a diminished immune response during acute stress. This work may prompt doctors to take a closer look at patients’ mental status, including sleep patterns and stress levels. This may prompt interventions not only to lead a healthier, less stressful lifestyle, but also to help the body fight infections better and improve outcomes.
“This work teaches us that stress has a major impact on our immune system and its ability to fight infections. This raises many questions about how socio-economic factors, lifestyle and the environments we live in control how our bodies can defend themselves against infection,” says Dr. Swirski. “In the future, we need to better understand the long-term effects of stress. It will be particularly important to explore how we can build resilience to stress and whether resilience can decrease the negative effects of stress on our immune system.
Funding: This study was supported by multiple grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute/NIH
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Through the integration of its hospitals, laboratories and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive healthcare solutions from birth to geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and IT while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatments. The health system includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint venture day surgery centers in the five boroughs of New York, Westchester, Long Island and Florida; and over 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by US News & World Report’s Top Hospitals, receiving a high “Honor Roll” status, and are highly ranked: #1 in Geriatrics and Top 20 in Cardiology/Cardiac Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology /gastrointestinal surgery, neurology /Neurosurgery, orthopaedics, pulmonology/pulmonary surgery, rehabilitation and urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked #12 in ophthalmology. US News and World ReportMount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital’s “Best Hospitals for Children” ranking is one of the best in the nation in 4 out of 10 pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that has distinguished itself by several indicators: it is consistently ranked in the top 20 by US News and World Report“Best Medical Schools”, aligned with a US News and World Report “Honor Roll” Hospital, and among the top 20 in the nation for funding from the National Institutes of Health and among the top 5 in the nation for many areas of basic and clinical research. NewsweekThe “World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Hospital number one in New York and among the top five in the world, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 20 globally.
The title of the article
Cerebral motility and fear circuits regulate leukocytes during acute stress
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