Monday, 2 April 2007

Unemployment and Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity

Natural Killer (NK) cells are part of the innate immune system, the evolutionary older, non-adaptive part of our defences. They are involved in protecting us when our own cells are damaged, say, by viral infection or if they begin to form a tumour. They are described as cytotoxic, that is, toxic to cells.

A recent paper in Psychosomatic Medicine, Immune Function Declines With Unemployment and Recovers After Stressor Termination, looks at the results of measurements on the cytotoxicity of NK cells (NKCC) during periods of unemployment. NKCC was found to be significantly higher in the employed. Especially interesting was the finding that NKCC levels in the 25 unemployed who found work during the study recovered significantly.

Of course, it would be interesting to know more about the effects of personal job satisfaction and job security on immune functioning for a fuller picture. Then there are the effects of retirement, often a dangerous time for people.


Frédéric said...

First I looked at the paper, curious about that.
i'm a immunologist too.
the main reason I don't like this paper is that it's an interpretation of cellular objectives. I don't think that 1/ NK cells numbers means something , 2/ only 75 persons 3/ linking psychological stress and multiplication of cells 4/ NK cells is only a small part of innate response ( you could find toll like receptors in a a lot of other cells that triggers the innate response)

What is crazy is that they interpret that unemploiement is bad at least in califormia. they is so many people suffering from work illness (depression, suicide, pressure, stress) that you can think now that having a low number of NK cell is also good.
may be it means that people doesn't get infected because they are protected now :)


david said...

I suppose that if the researchers had arrived at a point where, given a sample of people, they could predict accurately whether or not someone was employed by this measure of immune functioning, one would have to be impressed.

But I agree with you. If we're interested in finding out how flourishing as a person and physical well-being relate, it is very indirect to measure one component of immune function, which may or may not have a bearing on health, and one feature of one's life as an economic agent.