Research published in Cell Metabolism investigated the effect of cold on autoimmune diseases in mice, noting a marked improvement in symptoms when rodents were exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged time. The body, having to choose which activity to channel its energies to, would prioritize the vital goal of keeping warm, thus reducing immune functions.
Amazing effects. The researchers compared the reactions of two groups of mice, both suffering from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the corresponding animal of our multiple sclerosis. The former, exposed to temperatures of 10 ° C for two weeks, experienced a notable improvement in the symptoms of the disease, with an almost total disappearance of the paralysis in the limbs that prevented them from moving normally; in the latter, exposed to temperatures of about 33 ° C, the researchers instead found a worsening of symptoms.
By looking at the mice’s immune cells, the researchers determined that the cold had induced changes in monocytes (white blood cells critical to managing the immune response), affecting their ability to instruct T cells to attack the nervous system.
Are we too warm? Recalling that these are still only studies on mice, and that it is therefore still too early to draw conclusions regarding our health, Mirko Trajkovski, one of the authors, however, sees parallels with us humans: “The improvement of living conditions in Western countries it has gone hand in hand with an increase in autoimmune diseases, ”he says, pointing out that this is only one of many factors. In the future, Trajkovski hopes to better understand how cold affects monocytes, even in the absence of autoimmune diseases: “This could be the key to understanding why we are more prone to infections in winter,” he concludes.