If you’re feeling like your immune system is a little bit sluggish, you would usually avoid the person in your office who is sick. But think again.
Well, keep some safe distance, but just looking at someone who is sick could apparently help you out.
Some research that io9 pointed to suggests that blood work done from people before and after watching a slideshow of images of different sick people actually showed improvement in immune system function. This is indicated by increased presence of cytokines.
Cytokines, as a group, are so varied that doctors are not sure whether they really do belong in just one group. They can be proteins or peptides. Some are generated by any cell with a nucleus, and some by specialized cells. And, although they’re all linked with the immune system they all have different functions.
Among the different types, the slideshow images of sick people apparently generated the bacterial-specific cytokines specifically.
One type, called interleukins, signal a special kind of white blood cell in your extracellular fluids. This white blood cell, called a B-cell, goes after bacteria. Another type of cytokine patrols the blood looking for infected macrophages. Macrophages engulf and “eat” foreign bodies, but some bacteria hack them, and live inside the macrophages. These cytokines find infected macrophages and activate processes that allow them to kill the bacteria inside them.
This didn’t occur for volunteers who looked at boring images or even violent ones. The ability to fight off infections isn’t all in our heads, obviously, but this kind of research does suggest that there is a natural, physical reaction to what we see. Pretty cool.
Wow! This is really interesting! The next time you run in the other direction when someone sneezes, think again.
Healthy thoughts to you!