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Title: The effect of social isolation on the immune system
Author: Hamilton, Alice Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 4431
Awarding Body: Queen Mary University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2020
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A person’s social network size and quality of life can affect the body at three levels: behavioural, psychological and physiological. A socially isolated person is more likely to have a poor diet, suffer from depression and have increased blood pressure, all of which are risk factors for chronic inflammatory diseases. This thesis aimed to understand how social isolation affects the immune system in the acute inflammatory setting, sepsis, and in the chronic inflammatory setting, atherosclerosis. CD-1 mice subjected to 2 weeks of social isolation had increased food intake without increased weight gain, a finding that was accompanied by an increased number of smaller adipocytes suggesting socially isolated mice have increased thermogenesis to maintain body temperature. Social isolation profoundly altered the microbiota to one that is proinflammatory. Microarray analysis of whole blood revealed a unique transcriptional fingerprint for social isolation. After 2 weeks of social isolation, mice were given E.coli induced sepsis and found to have enhanced bacterial clearance. Toll-like receptor signalling pathways in peritoneal macrophages revealed that genes involved in fighting bacterial infections were upregulated. Social isolation was neither beneficial nor detrimental during viral sepsis. ApoE-/- mice underwent social isolation for a 4-week period. Mice subjected to social isolation maintained a consistent calorie intake both on the Western diet and standard diet whilst socially housed mice increased their calorie intake on the Western diet probably as a result of leptin resistance. Social isolation did not increase atherosclerotic burden but increased necrosis in the atherosclerotic plaque suggesting that social isolation might increase risk of plaque rupture. This thesis demonstrated for the first time that just 2-4 weeks of social isolation causes profound immunological and metabolic changes in the body which might account in part for the increased risk of chronic inflammatory diseases seen in socially isolated people.
Supervisor: D'Acquisto, Fulvio Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available