Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Depression, Aging, And Proteins Made By A Virus May All Play Role In Heart Disease

ScienceDaily: Depression, Aging, And Proteins Made By A Virus May All Play Role In Heart Disease
"Researchers here have linked an increase in two immune system proteins essential for inflammation to a latent viral infection and proposed a chain of events that might accelerate cardiovascular disease...The findings also suggest that chronic depression may play a key role in starting the cascade that can lead to the buildup of plaques clogging coronary arteries...

Ronald Glaser, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University , said, “To me, this suggests a new way of thinking about how these diseases develop. We carry around these latent herpes viruses in our bodies virtually all our lives and periodically they can hurt us, inducing biological events that could lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis.”

Glaser, head of Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, has focused for years on Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), one of eight different herpesviruses that can remain dormant in the body for a lifetime...

As the immune system ages, the levels of IL-6 in the body increase in the blood. Some of that IL-6 is created by immune cells called macrophages that rush to the site of an infection or injury. Earlier work by the team also showed that increases in psychological stress and depression can substantially raise the levels of IL-6 and TNF-a in the body.

Increased stress and depression can also trigger the latent virus to reactivate and begin reproducing inside cells

The researchers also knew that as Epstein-Barr virus begins to multiply in cells in the body, it produces a protein called dUTpase that, in turn, can stimulate macrophages to make even more IL-6.

The more IL-6 levels rise in the body, the greater a person's risk is for disease,” Glaser said, adding that IL-6 increases, as well as depression, have been associated with cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and type-2 diabetes..."

Clearly a vicious cycle. One answer would be truly effective, broad brush antivirals. But they don't exist yet. So how would one ramp down IL-6? Omega 3's. Ring any bells? There has been recent speculation that some forms of unipolar depression are the result of immune dysfunction. Could it be that some of that immune dysfunction is caused by "latent" viruses like Epstein-Barr? And that for some people fish oil is somewhat effective for depression because it addresses elevated IL-6 levels? And of course fish oil has proven effective at combating heart disease, osteoporosis and type-2 diabetes. Connections...

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