The results buttress an emerging theory that gamma interferons, a type of immune cell that helps induce and modulate a variety of immune system responses, may also play a role in preventing depression in healthy people.
“We were surprised that normal spinal fluid would be so interesting,” said David Hafler, the William S. and Lois Stiles Edgerly Professor of Neurology, professor of immunobiology and senior author of the study.
Previous research has shown that blocking gamma interferons and the T cells they help produce can cause depression-like symptoms in mice. Hafler notes that depression is also a common side effect in patients with MS treated with a different type of interferon.
Using a powerful new technology that allows a detailed examination of individual cells, the researchers show that while the characteristics of T cells in the spinal fluid of healthy people share similarities with those of MS patients, they lack the ability to replicate and cause the damaging inflammatory response seen in autoimmune diseases such as MS.
In essence, the immune system in the brains of all people is poised to make an inflammatory immune system response and may have another function than defending against pathogens, Hafler said.
“These T cells serve another purpose and we speculate that they may help preserve our mental health,” he said.
Hafler said that his lab and colleagues at Yale plan to explore how immune system responses in the central nervous system might affect psychiatric disorders such as depression.
Yale’s Jenna Pappalardo is first author of the study, which was primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National MS Society.
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.
Send your news and stories to us email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and WhatsApp: +447747873668.
Before you go...
Democratic norms are being stress-tested all over the world, and the past few years have thrown up all kinds of questions we didn't know needed clarifying – how long is too long for a parliamentary prorogation? How far should politicians be allowed to intervene in court cases? To monitor these issues as closely as we have in the past we need your support, so please consider donating to The Climax News Room.