Feeling itchy, blame it on stress

October 27th, 2008 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 27 (IANS) Feeling itchy - blame it on stress, which may activate immune cells in your skin and cause the familiar yet irritating sensation. Skin provides the first level of protection from infection, where white blood cells (WBCs) attack the invading bacteria and viruses. Immune cells in the skin, however, can over-react resulting in inflammatory skin diseases.

Stress can trigger an outbreak in patients suffering from inflammatory skin conditions.

This cross talk between the stress perception, which involves the brain, and the skin is mediated through the “brain-skin connection”. Yet, little is known about the means by which stress aggravates skin diseases.

Researchers lead by Petra Arck of Charité, University of Medicine, Berlin and McMaster University in Canada, hypothesised 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. Arck’s group found that this stress challenge resulted in higher numbers of mature WBCs 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 WBCs in the skin.

Taken together, these data suggest that the stress activates immune cells, which in turn are central in initiating and perpetuating skin diseases, according to a release from the University of Medicine.

The report will appear in the November issue of The American Journal of Pathology.

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