The world is a vast place with many things to do and see. Going on a hike through the dense wilderness, or even just visiting your local park to bird watch can be a very stimulating experience. Everyone enjoys a little adventure now and again, and according to new research, living in a stimulating environment may have a wide range of health benefits in humans, and has even shown fight cancer in mouse studies.
With the pharmaceutical industry being as big as it is, it can be easy to neglect natural methods of keeping healthy. Melinda Angus-Hill of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah wanted to evaluate the benefits of reducing stress through body-mind interventions, as she believes that it can have a positive impact while inducing minimal risk. The study specifically addressed if mind-body interventions would have any effect on wound repair response in colon tumorigenesis in humans.
The mind-body medicine concept focuses on reducing bodily manifestations of stress and anxiety. To achieve this, you would have to be exposed to social and cognitive stimulation as well as participating in physical activity. The idea is that mind and body stimulation will improve overall health and help prevent mental and physical illnesses like depression and cancer progression.
The team of scientists set out to test this theory by using mice models with colon cancer and exposing them to environmental enrichment, which essentially comprised of filling their cages with multiple other mice, along with running wheels, huts, and other stimulating objects the mice could interact with. They found that environmental enrichment reduced tumor size in females and decreased blood levels of inflammatory molecules in males. More interestingly, the life span for each of the cancer-ridden mice increased as well, with females living 55 days and males 82 days.
According to the researchers, tumors are like wounds that do not heal, but instead grow larger and out of control. Reducing inflammation is a key step in the wound repair process, and enriching the environment of these male mice with cancer helped support this process, thereby increasing their survival. Additionally, they found that this experiment activated nuclear hormone receptor signaling pathways involved in wound repair and improved vasculature in male mice.
This result may be seen as evidence that mind-body medicine can help augment the tumor microenvironment and possibly lead to cancer treatment drugs reaching the cancer cell target more efficiently. A stimulation of immune cells was also appreciated in the form of antibody-producing plasma cells, which led to the restored integrity of the colon barrier, defending against outside pathogens and improving gut microbes.
“Our study demonstrates a positive role of environmental enrichment-induced IgA-secreting plasma cells and raises the possibility of harnessing their potential for therapeutic purposes in colon cancer, particularly in people who practice stress reduction techniques and who are physically active,” Angus-Hill says.