October 2008 — Current research suggests that stress may activate immune cells in your skin, resulting in inflammatory skin disease.
Skin provides the first level of defense to infection, serving not
only as a physical barrier, but also as a site for white blood cells to
attack invading bacteria and viruses. The immune cells in skin can
over-react, however, resulting in inflammatory skin diseases such as
atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.
Stress can trigger an outbreak in patients suffering from
inflammatory skin conditions. This cross talk between stress
perception, which involves the brain, and the skin is mediated the
through the "brain-skin connection". Yet, little is know about the
means by which stress aggravates skin diseases.
Researchers lead by Dr. Petra Arck of Charité, University of
Medicine Berlin and McMaster University in Canada, hypothesized that
stress could exacerbate skin disease by increasing the number of immune
cells in the skin. To test this hypothesis, they exposed mice to sound
stress. Dr. Arck’s group found that this stress challenge resulted in
higher numbers of mature white blood cells in the skin. Furthermore,
blocking the function of two proteins that attract immune cells to the
skin, LFA-1 and ICAM-1, prevented the stress-induced increase in white
blood cells in the skin.
Taken together, these data suggest that stress activates immune
cells, which in turn are central in initiating and perpetuating skin
diseases. Fostered by the present observation, the goal of future
studies in Dr. Arck’s group is to prevent stress-triggered outbreaks of
skin diseases by recognizing individuals at risk and identifying immune
cells suitable to be targeted in therapeutic interventions.
This work was supported by grants from the German Research Foundation and the Charité .
Source : American Journal of Pathology