Alcohol Consumption Boosts Body’s Immune System

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Boosts Body’s Immune System, Study Suggests

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Boosts Body's Immune System, Study Suggests

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Boosts Body’s Immune System, Study Suggests

The scientists did their research in rhesus macaques, which have an immune system very similar to humans. To conduct the study, the researchers trained a group of 12 rhesus macaques to consume alcohol — a 4 percent ethanol mixture — of their own accord.

Researchers vaccinated the monkeys against small pox as part of the study. They then separated the animals into two groups — those with access to the 4 percent ethanol and those with access to sugar water. All of the animals had regular access to pure water, and to food.

The researchers then monitored the animals’ daily ethanol consumption for 14 months. And the animals were vaccinated again, seven months after the experiment began.

“Like humans, rhesus macaques showed highly variable drinking behavior,” said Ilhem Messaoudi, the lead author of the paper, a former assistant professor at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at OHSU and assistant scientist in the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and now an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside. “Some animals drank large volumes of ethanol, while others drank in moderation.”

The monkeys’ voluntary ethanol consumption segregated them into two groups. One group was made up of heavy drinkers, those that had an average blood ethanol concentration greater than 0.08 percent — the legal limit for humans to be able to drive a vehicle. The other group was made up of moderate drinkers, with an average blood ethanol concentration of 0.02 to 0.04 percent.

Prior to consuming the alcohol, all of the animals showed comparable responses to the vaccination. But after exposure to the alcohol, the two groups of monkeys responded in very different ways to the vaccination.

The heavy drinkers showed greatly diminished vaccine responses compared with the control group of monkeys who drank the sugar water. But the more surprising finding: the moderate-drinking monkeys displayed enhanced responses to the vaccine compared to the control group. Moderate drinking bolstered their bodies’ immune systems.

The researchers stressed that excessive alcohol consumption was injurious to the monkeys’ immune systems — just as excessive alcohol consumption is bad for human bodies in many ways.

“If you have a family history of alcohol abuse, or are at risk, or have been an abuser in the past, we are not recommending you go out and drink to improve your immune system,” Messaoudi said. “But for the average person who has, say, a glass of wine with dinner, it does seem in general to improve health and cardiovascular function. And now we can add the immune system to that list.”

The next steps for the researchers will be to better understand why the immune system reacts as it does to moderate alcohol. That may lead to a pharmaceutical alternative that could provide the same benefits as the moderate alcohol consumption.

Scientists snap picture of immune system

Scientists snap the clearest picture yet of the immune system in action:

Scientists snap the clearest picture yet of the immune system in action.

Scientists snap the clearest picture yet of the immune system in action.

A microscope powerful enough to capture a single molecule has taken the clearest picture yet of the immune system in action.

The technique, called superresolution single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, recently helped scientists at the University of Manchester in England track natural killer (NK) cells, which help destroy cancer and viruses.

NK cells have receptors that are clustered together at their surface, and these receptors target proteins on another cell’s surface to tell whether the contacting cell is diseased or healthy. When the NK cell is activated, the receptor clusters change in size and density, which could help NK cells recognize and eliminate infected cells — but spare healthy ones — next time around.

Blue Planet Outside Solar System

Hubble Finds A Blue Planet Outside Of Our Solar System:


Hubble Finds A Blue Planet Outside Of Our Solar System

Hubble Finds A Blue Planet Outside Of Our Solar System


The planet currently known as HD 189733b is one of the closest planets astronomers have discovered outside of our own solar system – only 63 light years away. It was first discovered in 2005, when French astronomers observed it moving in front of its star. And now, astronomers observing the planet with the Hubble Space Telescope have learned something else about it – it’s blue.

Don’t get too excited, though – it’s not blue because it’s covered with water. HD 189733b is bigger than Jupiter and is so close to its star that it’s year is only 2.2 days. Its temperature gets as high as 2,000 degrees. On one side, anyway. Since it’s so close to its star (about 2 million miles away), the planet is tidally locked – meaning only one side of the planet faces the star, period.

In 2007, astronomers made a “thermal map” of HD 189773b and determined that the temperature difference between the light side and dark side of the planet might be as much as 500 degrees. That temperature difference causes enormously fast winds of up to 4500 miles per hour to appear in the planet’s atmosphere. By way of comparison, a category five hurricane has speeds of about 160 miles per hour.

That’s not the only crazy aspect of the weather on this planet. Scientists have also suggested that when it rains on this world, it rains glass.

The clue for that possbility lies in the planet’s blue color. It’s blue not because it’s reflecting water, like our planet, but because the atmosphere contains silicates. Those silicate particles can condense in the cloud to form those glass rains. Those silicate particles also scatter the light in such a way as to make the planet appear blue.

Synthetic gel communicates with itself

In a paper published in the January 8 print edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team demonstrates that a synthetic system can reconfigure itself through a combination of chemical communication and interaction with light.

This study demonstrates the ability of a synthetic material to actually 'talk to itself'

This study demonstrates the ability of a synthetic material to actually ‘talk to itself’

Anna Balazs, principal investigator of the study and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has long studied the properties of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gel, a material first fabricated in the late 1990s and shown to pulsate in the absence of any external stimuli.

In a previous study, the team noticed that long pieces of gel attached to a surface by one end “bent” toward one another, almost as if they were trying to communicate by sending signals. This hint that “chatter” might be taking place led the team to detach the fixed ends of the gels and allow them to move freely.

Balazs and her team developed a 3D gel model to test the effects of the chemical signaling and light on the material. They found that when the gel pieces were moved far apart, they would automatically come back together, exhibiting autochemotaxis—the ability to both emit and sense a chemical, and move in response to that signal.

“This study demonstrates the ability of a synthetic material to actually ‘talk to itself’ and follow out a given action or command, similar to such biological species as amoeba and termites,” says Balazs.

“Imagine a Lego set that could by itself unsnap its parts and then put itself back together again in different shapes but also allow you to control those shapes through chemical reaction and light.”

“We find this system to be extremely exciting and important because it provides a unique opportunity to study autochemotaxis in synthetic systems,” says Olga Kuksenok, a member of the research team and research associate professor in the department of chemical engineering.

The National Science Foundation, Army Research Office, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported the research.