Researchers know that chronic stress can lead to diseases linked to immune dysfunction and inflammation in adulthood, including arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness. However, until now, no one knew why this occurred.
A new study from researchers at the MDI Biological Laboratory found that when zebrafish embryos are exposed to the hormone cortisol over a five day period, they develop into adults with abnormal immune systems. Cortisol is produced in the body in response to stress.
“It’s been pretty well established, through epidemiological and animal studies, that chronic early-life stress predisposes people to a number of diseases later in life. Many of these diseases are driven by immune dysfunction. But how that works is not,” James A. Coffman, Ph.D., an associate preofessor at the MDI Biological Laboratory, explained to ALN. “What we’ve done in the zebrafish is to show that we can model that. This gives us a very powerful tool for developmental biology and epigenetics to uncover how this works.”
The research was published in Biology Open.