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The multiple faces of the human immune system

Modern life causes low-grade inflammation and thereby provokes conflict between the selfish immune system and the selfish brain
PhD ceremony:Mr L. (Leo) Pruimboom
When:January 30, 2017
Supervisors:prof. dr. F.A.J. Muskiet, prof. dr. C. Raison
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
The multiple faces of the human immune system

This thesis describes the multiple ways by which the human immune system can react upon direct and indirect challenges, such as infection and wounds on the one hand, and chronic stress factors, such as smoking, on the other. The human defense system exhibits a type of selfish behaviour during both acute- and chronic activity states. Acute activation of the immune system is usually quickly finalized through multiple mechanisms exerting immune inhibiting effects. As a result, inflammation is usually self-limiting, thereby protecting the body against secondary damaging effects of the immune system itself.

Chronic activity of the immune system is caused by many risk factors related to modern lifestyle, including sedentary behaviour, lack of physical exercise, sleep deprivation, smoking, overeating and unsolved psycho-emotional problems. The sum of these risk factors produces chronic activation of the stress axes and entrance of bacterial debris in the blood stream, causing a chronic infectious state that is referred to as chronic low-grade inflammation. This low-grade inflammation should be considered as the cause of most, if not all, chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCD). Our interventions show that a short bout of "ancient" stress factors could end chronic activity of the immune system and in this way protect people against the toxic effects of modern life. Evidence is given through changes in metabolic parameters such as weight loss and decrease of glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol. These changes were achieved after an intervention period of only ten days.