Some Benefits of Exercise Stem from the Immune System

Exercise is known to cause temporary damage to the muscles, unleashing a cascade of inflammatory responses. It boosts the expression of genes that regulate muscle structure, metabolism, and the activity of mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses that fuel cell function. Mitochondria play a key role in exercise adaptation by helping cells meet the greater energy demand of exercise.

Immune cells mobilized in the muscles during exercise fend off inflammation and boost endurance. Research in mice shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of exercise may arise from immune cells mobilized to counter exercise-induced inflammation.

Immune cells prevent muscle damage by lowering levels of interferon, a key driver of chronic inflammation, inflammatory diseases, and aging.

The connection between exercise and inflammation has captivated the imagination of researchers ever since an early 20th-century study showed a spike of white cells in the blood of Boston marathon runners following the race.

Now, a new Harvard Medical School study published Nov. 3 in Science Immunology may offer a molecular explanation behind this century-old observation.

The study, done in mice, suggests that the beneficial effects of exercise may be driven, at least partly, by the immune system. It shows that muscle inflammation caused by exertion mobilizes inflammation-countering T cells, or Tregs, which enhance the muscles’ ability to use energy as fuel and improve overall exercise endurance.

Long known for their role in countering the aberrant inflammation linked to autoimmune diseases, Tregs now also emerge as key players in the body’s immune responses during exercise, the research team said.

“The immune system, and the T cell arm in particular, has a broad impact on tissue health that goes beyond protection against pathogens and controlling cancer. Our study demonstrates that the immune system exerts powerful effects inside the muscle during exercise,” said study senior investigator Diane Mathis, Morton Grove-Rasmussen Professor of Immunology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.

Mice are not people, and the findings remain to be replicated in further studies, the researchers cautioned. However, the study is an important step toward detailing the cellular and molecular changes that occur during exercise and confer health benefits.

Understanding the molecular underpinnings of exercise

Protecting from cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of diabetes, shielding against dementia. The salutary effects of exercise are well established. But exactly how does exercise make us healthy? The question has intrigued researchers for a long time.

The new findings come amid intensifying efforts to understand the molecular underpinnings of exercises. Untangling the immune system’s involvement in this process is but one aspect of these research efforts.

“We’ve known for a long time that physical exertion causes inflammation, but we don’t fully understand the immune processes involved,” said study first author Kent Langston, a postdoctoral researcher in the Mathis lab. “Our study shows, at very high resolution, what T cells do at the site where exercise occurs, in the muscle.”

Most previous research on exercise physiology has focused on the role of various hormones released during exercise and their effects on different organs such as the heart and the lungs. The new study unravels the immunological cascade that unfolds inside the actual site of exertion — the muscle.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Harvard Medical School

Please Check out file at the following link


Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV)

Research team develops a new vaccine that kills HIV in monkeys

Ultrasonic washer

Central sterile services department (CSSD)