Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Healthy Relationships vs. Social Isolation

Here's a news report that I came across recently that appears to prove how important it is that we have healthy relationships. This new research was conducted with both "single" and "attached" mice -- and it suggests that social isolation may promote more damaging inflammation in the brain during a stroke.

Ohio State University scientists found that all the male mice that lived with a female partner survived seven days after a stroke, but only 40 percent of socially isolated animals lived that long. In addition, those mice with a mate suffered much less brain damage than did the surviving solitary mice.

“Under nearly every measure, it seems that there was something about living together that protected the mice by reducing the damaging inflammatory response,” said Kate Karelina, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

Some of the mice lived with a female partner for two weeks before the stroke and continuing afterwards. Other mice lived alone before and after the stroke.

The reasons for the higher survival rate for the socially housed mice were evident when the researchers compared brain tissues of mice after the stroke. The amount of tissue damage in the brain was about four times larger in the mice housed alone compared to those housed with another mouse.

In addition, socially housed mice had significantly less edema, or excess water in the brain, when compared to the isolated animals.

“In clinical stroke, edema is a major concern because it can lead to additional neuronal damage, so it is significant that pair housing reduced edema,” Karelina said.

In addition, findings revealed that mice that lived with others had significantly higher levels of a cytokine in their brain called interleukin-6 (IL-6) that has an anti-inflammatory response in the brain, helping to limit damage caused by the stroke.

Overall, the study provides some early clues as to how social support may protect people who suffer strokes. “We’re learning more about what it is about social support that helps stroke victims have more positive outcomes,” Karelina said.

The research is scheduled to appear this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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