To successfully fight cancer or chronic infections, the immune system must be active for a long period of time. However, in the long term, the immune defense system is often depleted.
It has been found that the volume of muscle mass affects the immune system. Skeletal muscles help keep the immune system up and running in chronic disease.
In many cases, significant weight loss and muscle loss are the result of cancer or dangerous infections. In this process, known as cachexia, patients often suffer from weakened immune systems.
One reason for this is the loss of function of a group of T cells whose job it is to recognize and destroy virus-infected or cancerous cells.
The processes leading to the loss of T-cell activity still remain largely unexplained. However, many signs indicate that there is an association with cachexia.
T cells are known to be involved in the loss of skeletal muscle mass. But skeletal muscle also influences T-cell function.
The expression of genes in the skeletal muscles of animals was analyzed and it was found that during chronic infections, muscle cells secrete an increased amount of a substance – the messenger Interleukin-15 (IL-15).
This cytokine induces the formation of T cell precursors in skeletal muscle that are spatially demarcated and protected from contact with chronic inflammation.
If T cells that are actively fighting infection lose their full functionality through continuous stimulation, progenitor cells can migrate out of the muscle and develop into functional T cells.
This allows the immune system to fight the virus continuously for a long time. Therefore, regular exercise helps to strengthen the immune system.
In the Research model animals with more muscle mass had better immunity and coped better with chronic viral infection than those whose muscles were weaker.
Thus, the results shown in the animal study are very likely to be extrapolated to humans and suggest that strength training aimed at increasing muscle mass will help strengthen the immune system.
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