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New study links immune system with mental health and behaviour

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by natasa778, May 29, 2010.

  1. natasa778

    natasa778 Senior Member

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    Immune System Troubles Could Spark Behavior Woes

    Fixing gene connected to immune system cured 'hair-pulling' disorder in mice, study found


    http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/639578.html


    By Amanda Gardner

    THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- In the first scientific illustration of exactly how some psychiatric illnesses might be linked to an immune system gone awry, researchers report they cured mice of an obsessive-compulsive condition known as "hair-pulling disorder" by tweaking the rodents' immune systems.

    Although scientists have noticed a link between the immune system and psychiatric illnesses, this is the first evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship, said the authors of a study appearing in the May 28 issue of the journal Cell. The "cure" in this case was a bone marrow transplant, which replaced a defective gene with a normal one.

    The excitement lies in the fact that this could open the way to new treatments for different mental disorders, although bone marrow transplants, which can be life-threatening in themselves, are not a likely candidate, at least not at this point.

    "There are some drugs already existing that are effective with respect to immune disorders," said study senior author Mario Capecchi, the recipient of a 2007 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

    "This is very new information in terms of there being some kind of immune reaction in the body that could be contributing to mental health symptoms," said Jacqueline Phillips-Sabol, an assistant professor of neurosurgery and psychiatry at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and director of the neuropsychology division at Scott & White in Temple, Texas. "This helps us continue to unravel the mystery of mental illness, which used to be shrouded in mysticism. We didn't know where it came from or what caused it."

    However, Phillips-Sabol was quick to point out that bone marrow transplants are not a reasonable treatment for mental health disorders.

    "That's probably a stretch at least at this point," she said. "Most patients who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are fairly successfully treated with psychotherapy."

    "The story starts with a mouse mutant that has a very unusual behavior, which is very similar to the obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder in humans called trichotillomania, when patients compulsively remove all their body hair," explained Capecchi, who is a distinguished professor of human genetics and biology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    Some 2 percent to 3 percent of people worldwide suffer from the disorder, he said.

    The same group of researchers had earlier discovered the reason for the odd behavior: these mice had changes in a gene known as Hoxb8.

    To their great surprise, the gene turns out to be involved in the development of microglia, a type of immune cell found in the brain but originating in the bone marrow, whose known function is to clean up damage in the brain.

    "This was strange because microglia are sort of scavengers," Capecchi explained. "If you have a stroke or bacteria or virus which destroys tissue, these cells go in and clean up the mess. But now we're saying they're involved with behavior."

    When the researchers injected 10 mutant mice with bone marrow from normal mice, the mice stopped their destructive behavior and grew their hair back within three months.

    When the procedure was performed in reverse, normal mice injected with abnormal Hoxb8 developed trichotillomania.

    The experiment also showed that a high threshold for tolerating pain was not the cause of the disorder, as had been previously suspected.

    And immune system problems have been linked with a whole range of neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Capecchi said.

    "People have always seen an association between the behavioral pathology and a defective system with respect to immune system, but nobody could figure what is happening," Capecchi said. "Are you depressed, then the immune system isn't working well, or is the immune system not working well and you're more likely to be depressed? What we're saying is that there is a direct connection between the two because the microglia derived from the bone marrow where the immune system arises [affects the OCD behavior]," he explained.

    "We know a lot more about the immune system than we know about our brain," said Capecchi. "We know almost nothing about how the brain works and less about how drugs work. If we say the immune system is important, this opens up a whole new vista of things we can do simply because we know more about the immune system."
  2. free at last

    free at last Senior Member

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    Hi Natasa interesting post. my response is not directed at you but what i think the reseachers are saying.
    Surprise surprise, immune dysfunction and illness can cause mental illness. I figured this out 15 years ago. Severe symptoms can cause depression, panic attacks. post traumatic stress disorder, and confusion. All of which i suffered from,

    the reseachers seem surprised that mental illness can be cured or modified by taking away the very issue that has caused the mental condition in the first place. Seems pretty obviouse to me ? finding immune or gene disorders that lead to odd behaviour seems a surprise to them. like mental conditions can only be caused by the mind ? this is proof, what many have been saying all along.

    I wasnt depressed untill i got ill, i wasnt anxiouse untill i got ill, those conditions didnt cause me to get ill as some would have us belive. But is more a response of the mind to dealing with these issues. what came first chicken or the egg. In some cases mental illness could well lead to physical illness. But conversly for most people its the other way around.

    But try convincing those like Wessley of this fact when he picks up on deppression, anxiety, trauma ect, its just further proof that hes correct, and there is no underlying cause of illness, other than mental illness creating these problems.

    Well i say RUBBISH, for most of us illness came first. not the other way around. And it most certainly is worth looking for organic illness, to try treat the mental illness. trying to treat the mental illness without first curing the organic dysfunction, is a waste of time, as the illness itself will always cause further mental problems.

    As i say i knew this 15 years ago, the only new information here is that some mental conditions that were thought to be intirely mental, infact have a organic basis, exactly what we have all been saying for years is it not. well at least theres evidence of this now that they all seem happy about lol.
  3. HopingSince88

    HopingSince88 Senior Member

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    Dr. Goldberg's theories and work also support this idea. His revolve around viral infections causing autism, depression, anxiety, learning disorders, ADHD, etc...

    "Chicken or the egg" - perfectly states what is going on here.
  4. Karin

    Karin

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    Thanks Natasa. This is excellent.

    "Are you depressed, then the immune system isn't working well, or is the immune system not working well and you're more likely to be depressed?"

    Finally, someone is raising the right question. I am so tired of hearing that depression is causing immune issues, fatigue and IBS. And that depression was caused by stress or relationship issues. Or worse, trauma from childhood. I never bought into this. This school of thought will disappear. Mental illness is a physical illness, maybe triggered by a life stressor, but a physical illness first.

    Imagine the kind of stress people were subjected centuries ago. Newborns dying early, wives dying in childbirth, men dying at war, no appliances, no antibiotics. Slavery. People were under huge stressors, yet there weren't epidemics of suicide or mass murder.
  5. HopingSince88

    HopingSince88 Senior Member

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    Yes, Natasa...thank you for finding this!

    I would reiterate what Karin has said. The brain - afterall - is an organ of the body, just like any other organ...and subject to disease. More research of this type needs to be done.
  6. tolduiwuzsic

    tolduiwuzsic

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    You mean I'm not just a "difficult patient"?

    @freeatlast- It still hurts that they stuck me in a psych hospital when I tried to tell them I was ill. No one would listen and eventually I bought into their lies that childhood issues caused me to have mental illness which caused ME. It feels good to say what u said-

    "I wasnt depressed untill i got ill, i wasnt anxiouse untill i got ill, those conditions didnt cause me to get ill as some would have us belive. But is more a response of the mind to dealing with these issues. "

    :victory:
  7. awol

    awol *****

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    This is a really really important line of research that is going to change many areas of medicine I predict.

    free at last - I doubt the researchers were surprised. This is a way of writing that is often used in research to avoid coming across as a pompous revolutionary when you are offering something that requires a fundamental adjustment in thinking.
  8. Frickly

    Frickly Senior Member

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    Thanks for this Natasa, Yes......I think this has been rather obvious for some time but am happy people are starting to take it seriously. My son has OCD and I can tell you that by supporting his immune system his symptoms are greatly reduced.
  9. natasa778

    natasa778 Senior Member

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    yes to all comments, except I don't agree that childhood trauma does not predispose one to depression (in the absence of resilience factors), adverse circumstances in childhood and later (relationship, stressful life events etc without good buffers) DO influence mental health and health in general.... no question about that. that is why many with Major Depressive Disorder will have some of the issues seen in true CFS/ME and it so easy to muddle cohorts - however as Dr Jason talked about at the London conference, 70% of those with MDD and mild "CFS/ME" did have childhood trauma etc psycho factors, whereas true Canadian CFS/ME patients do not.

    BUT these things go the other way round too, this is what various "experts", especially psychiatrists, have been denying for so long... and this piece finally stops that debate (although I have a feeling many will pretend they haven't heard of it :Retro mad: and keep on same old same old)
  10. JillBohr

    JillBohr Senior Member

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    There is the most beautiful ASD girl in my son's school that did this last year. I was shocked when I saw her completely bald. Her hair has grown out now but I do hope that this does not repeat itself.
  11. Bob

    Bob

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    Psychiatrists must be hating this study...

    How ironic that many 'experts' would love to label ME as a psychiatric disorder, and then this study comes along and confirms that psychiatric disorders are based on a broken immune system...

    I suffered from depression and social anxiety from a very young age... and I know that, for me, these were due to a malfunction of the physical workings of my body, which is probably genetic or maybe due to the environment of the womb... Due to my personal circumstances, I've always known that my problems weren't based on 'faulty' thinking.

    Of course, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia are clearly organic disorders... they are not caused by 'faulty' thinking... so I don't know why the 'experts' have so much trouble accepting that other psychological disorders, such as depression, social anxiety, OCD etc., can't have underlying genetic, or immune system, causes.
  12. Bob

    Bob

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    That's interesting Frickly... may I ask how you support his immune system?
    And do you use the same sort of immune support for yourself?

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