MAR 06, 2020 12:19 PM PST

The lasting effects of perinatal stress

New research published in the journal Cell suggests that stress experienced during gestation in the womb, as well as immediate post-natal stress, can result in life-long immune deficiencies and even impact an individual’s ability to protect against infections and cancer.

Photo: Pixabay

The study comes from researchers at Yale who looked at long-term physiological changes in mice who were exposed to gestational stress and post-natal stress in the form of the stress hormone glucocorticoid. While glucocorticoid is typically thought of as beneficial to the body due to its inflammation-reduction characteristics, the team found that early-life exposure to glucocorticoid can actually change immune system responses permanently, which can, in turn, have negative consequences.

"Mice for rest of their lives are rewired and reprogrammed in ways fundamentally different from those not exposed to glucocorticoids," said senior author Ruslan Medzhitov, a Yale immunobiologist and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. They found that the glucocorticoid-exposed mice were more susceptible to bacterial infections and tumors throughout their entire lives and that they had lower activity in a specific type of T cell that responds to pathogens.

The authors write: “We report that perinatal glucocorticoid exposure had long-term consequences and resulted in diminished CD8 T cell response in adulthood and impaired control of tumor growth and bacterial infection. We found that perinatal glucocorticoid exposure resulted in persistent alteration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Consequently, the level of the hormone in adults was significantly reduced, resulting in decreased CD8 T cell function. Our study thus demonstrates that perinatal stress can have long-term consequences on CD8 T cell immunity by altering HPA axis activity.”

The scientists say that their findings can illuminate why individuals vary so widely in their ability to ward off infections and will hopefully help promote research investigating mechanisms of stress reduction during perinatal periods.

Sources: Cell, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
APR 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Using Artificial Intelligence to Understand the Language of Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease
APR 19, 2021
Using Artificial Intelligence to Understand the Language of Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease
Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are life-changing, and there is still much we don’t understand about what cau ...
MAY 11, 2021
Immunology
Immune Cells Help Brain Tumors Spread, but We Can Stop Them
MAY 11, 2021
Immune Cells Help Brain Tumors Spread, but We Can Stop Them
Researchers have discovered how a glitch in the brain’s immune system can inadvertently cause an accelerated growt ...
MAY 10, 2021
Cancer
Advancements in nanotech pave the way for improved chemotherapy
MAY 10, 2021
Advancements in nanotech pave the way for improved chemotherapy
New research from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reports on a development in improving the effectiveness of c ...
JUN 14, 2021
Health & Medicine
Another Benefit of Aspirin: Decreased Colorectal Cancer Risk When Started Early
JUN 14, 2021
Another Benefit of Aspirin: Decreased Colorectal Cancer Risk When Started Early
Valued for stroke and heart attack prevention, aspirin is also recommended for colorectal cancer prevention. A Harv ...
JUN 07, 2021
Cancer
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
JUN 07, 2021
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
A breakthrough study soon to be presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE later this week reports that women who main ...
JUL 08, 2021
Cancer
Activating p53 May Boost Efficacy of Cancer Immunotherapy
JUL 08, 2021
Activating p53 May Boost Efficacy of Cancer Immunotherapy
Pharmacological activation of the p53 protein in cancer cells leads to an anti-tumor immune response in lab tests. These ...
Loading Comments...