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Future directions in exercise & immunology: regulation & integration

  [ 32 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Mackinnon LT • www.ProHealth.com • July 25, 1998


Although it is difficult to predict future directions in a
rapidly expanding field such as exercise immunology, recently
published research along with that presented at this Symposium
allow us to ask some key questions which may point to new
directions: 1) Are athletes immunocompromised? Athletes are
not clinically immunodeficient, yet endurance athletes are at
increased risk of illness. Long-term prospective studies are
needed to understand the relationship between infection,
training variables and immune parameters. 2) Is downregulation
of nonspecific immunity beneficial or harmful? In athletes,
neutrophils appear to be downregulated, and this may alter
resistance to illness. Alternatively, neutrophils are
mediators of tissue damage during inflammation. Downregulation
of neutrophil function may be protective by limiting chronic
inflammation. In athletes, mild immunosuppression may reflect
a compromise between the body's attempts to limit inflammation
while maintaining immune function. 3) What mediates
communication between events in skeletal muscle and the immune
system? Leukocyte mobility is affected by metabolic and
mechanical factors during exercise. Exercise increases
cytokine levels in damaged skeletal muscle and expression of
adhesion molecules. Future work is likely to focus on the role
of cytokines and adhesion molecules in mediating
exercise-induced changes in leukocyte mobility. 4) Can
exercise training provide a "countermeasure" against
immunosuppressive events? Moderate exercise training may have
a role in stimulating the immune system during certain
diseases (e.g., HIV- infection), immune dysfunction (e.g.,
chronic fatigue syndrome) or reduced responsiveness (e.g.
aging, spaceflight). It is also likely that future study will
apply molecular biology techniques to further identify
mechanisms by which exercise influences immune function.




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