Loneliness Linked to a Molecule

Sep 13, 2007
People who become chronically isolated have their gene expression patterns in immune cells altered. This alterations in genes trigger inflammation in body like a first response of immune system.

Earlier it was found that lonely people are at higher risks of mortality than those who are not.

Now researchers discovered that social isolations have a serious impact on our genes activity. The changes in immune cell genes expression make a person feel lonely.
Steve Cole, an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine, and a specialist of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology suggests that these gene expression changes were not somehow linked to age, health state or weight of the person. There was also no connection to such social factors as size of person's social environment.

Professor Cole and his colleagues studied the activity of human genes in leukocytes, playing an important role in immune system activation and inflammation, in 14 volunteers who took the test UCLA Loneliness Scale. In two groups of people there were found as much as 209 genes that were expressed differently for each of them. Those people who felt chronically socially isolated had their white blood cells (leukocytes)genes altered. The in-depth analysis showed that such some other gene sets were underexpressed. Lonely people had an reduced antiviral response and antibody production which is most probably a cause undermined health for lonely people.

The researchers say that a number of people a person is acquainted is not so important as how many people a person feels close to. This is what matters for gene expression alterations that causes bad effect on lonely people's health.

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