Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Unusual Flavors Can Dampen Immune Response

More than 100 years ago Ivan Pavlov famously observed that a dog salivated not only when fed but also on hearing a stimulus it associated with food. Since then, scientists have discovered many other seemingly autonomous processes that can be trained with sensory stimuli—including, most recently, our immune system. Researchers have long been able to train an animal’s immune system to respond to a nonpathogen stimulus. Pavlov’s students even did so in the early 20th century, but the famous dogs overshadowed their work. Then, in the 1970s, researchers trained rats and mice to associate a taste, such as sugar water, with an immunosuppressive drug. They found that after repeated conditioning, ingest­ing the sugar water alone could tamp down the animals’ immune response. more

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