- Exercising releases immune-boosting T cells, new study finds
Scientists have suggested that the benefits of exercise may be due in part to the way physical activity improves the immune system.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that exercise triggers the release of regulatory T cells, also known as Tregs, which improve muscles’ ability to use energy for fuel and improve endurance.
These same cells are also known to play a role in counteracting inflammation linked to a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.
Most previous studies on human performance have focused on the role of hormones released during exercise and their effects on different organs, but this new research is one of the first to show how the immune system may play a role.
“The immune system, and the Treg arm in particular, has a broad impact on tissue health,” says Professor Diane Mathis of Harvard Medical School.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that exercise triggers the release of regulatory T cells, also known as Tregs.
Although the findings relate to observations in laboratory mice, the researchers say the study is an important step toward understanding the molecular changes that occur during exercise that provide health benefits.
Exertion is known to temporarily damage muscles, triggering a cascade of inflammatory responses. In the study, the team analyzed cells taken from the hind leg muscles of mice that ran on a treadmill just once, as well as those that ran regularly. They were then compared to muscles from sedentary mice.
Arrays of both cells from mice running on treadmills showed classic signs of inflammation and also had elevated levels of Tregs in their muscles, which reduced exercise-induced inflammation. No changes were observed in sedentary mice.
However, other Treg benefits caused by exercise, such as improved muscle performance, were observed only in habitual treadmill runners, consistent with established findings in humans that regular activity is required to confer gains with exercise. time.
The Harvard experts also suggest that another function of Tregs is to counteract the harmful effects of interferons, proteins released as part of the body’s inflammatory response.
“With exercise we have a natural way to stimulate the body’s immune responses to reduce inflammation,” adds Professor Mathis. “It’s possible that exercise also boosts Treg activity in other parts of the body.”