Previous investigations at the University of Virginia School of Medicine (UVA) found the brain to be connected to the immune system by vessels they didn’t know existed. The importance of this research lies in the study of neurological diseases such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and even multiple sclerosis.
This investigation is very optimistic about finding possible cures to diseases linked to the immune system. Now researchers at the UVA found that the immune system could control the social behavior or at least the desire to interact with others. The research found the relation between people and pathogens, and how social behavior was developed as a defense system to survive as a species.
“The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology. And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens,” explained Jonathan Kipnis, PhD
Interferon Gamma is produced by the immune system to fight bacteria, parasites or viruses. Researchers found that blocking this molecule using genetic modifications made regions of the brain hyperactive, making the mice less social. Restoring the molecule also made the mice’s brain go back to normal as well as their social behavior.
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A healthy habit leads to a healthy organism
The importance of being socially active for the organism is critical for survival. Social activities include foraging, gathering, hunting and even sexual reproduction. The research also says that a malfunctioning immune system may lead to social and psychiatric disorders on people. They concluded that the brain could actually be defined or modified by immune molecules such as the interferon gamma.
The research contributes to a deeper understanding of neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. The causes of schizophrenia are still unclear some theories say this disease is caused by an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry while others say that it is a hereditary disease, it is also said that an immune system disorder can cause this disease.
The Interferon Gamma discovery can become a breakthrough against this and many other diseases that are yet to be cured, and which can now be linked to malfunctions in the immune system. Schizophrenia affects one in a hundred people. In the United States alone about 2.5 million people are suffering from this disease that can only use rehabilitation programs to live life as an independent and productive member of the society.
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Some of these programs are case management, housing programs, employment programs, crisis services, counseling, and therapy.
Further investigations regarding the interferon gamma and other molecules of the immune system might help cure the disease that has been around for a long time without a cure, and this would also make the lives of millions of people better.
Source: University of Virginia Health System