Exercise can help reduce chronic inflammation, study finds

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Staying active can yield consumers countless health benefits

Recent studies have highlighted the benefits associated with eating anti-inflammatory foods. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Duke University found that exercise also helps reduce chronic inflammation

“Lots of processes are taking place throughout the human body during exercise, and it is difficult to tease apart which systems and cells are doing inside an active person,” said researcher Nenad Bursac. “We discovered that the muscle cells were capable of taking anti-inflammatory actions all on their own.” 

The power of exercise

For this study, the researchers utilized a platform they created that includes fully-functional replicas of human muscles. They exposed the muscles to interferon gamma molecules in several different experiments to simulate the effects of inflammation. The team wanted to see how these molecules affected muscles and whether exercise could be used to combat any negative effects. 

The first part of the study involved introducing interferon gamma to the human muscle models for one week straight. After that week, the muscles received both the interferon gamma molecule and a simulated exercise routine to try to combat the inflammatory properties. 

Prior to the exercise regimen, the researchers observed that the interferon gamma led to a significant loss of muscle mass and general strength. However, introducing simulated exercise eliminated nearly all of the negative effects of this exposure. 

“Not only did we confirm that interferon gamma primarily works through a specific signaling pathway, we showed that exercising muscle cells can directly counter this pro-inflammatory signaling independent of the presence of other cell types or tissues,” Bursac said. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that the technology they used in this study can serve future projects that also benefit consumers’ health care needs. 

“When exercising, the muscle cells themselves were directly opposing the pro-inflammatory signal induced by interferon gamma, which we did not expect to happen,” said Bursac. “These results show just how valuable lab-grown human muscles might be in discovering new mechanisms of disease and potential treatments. There are notions out there that optimal levels and exercise regimes of exercise could fight chronic inflammation while not overstressing the cells. Maybe with our engineered muscle, we can help find out if such notions are true.” 

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