Sunday, December 21, 2014

Social stresses shift metabolic profiles?!?!

Okay...this is one of those papers where you have to do a Google Scholar search to prove that they aren't making this up and/or what the heck they are talking about.  It ends up being a really interesting story, though.

Social defeat stress is the stress that is suffered by the wild (or corporate) baboons at the bottom of the pack. When someone in the pack plays an aggressive alpha and has control over resources and this position is reinforced by the rest of the pack this induces long term stress effects on the bottom monkeys.  (Robert Sapolski did a lot of this research on baboons in Africa, found that the most stressful place to be was the very bottom or the very top, and then another group repeated this study with some corporation somewhere, I forget which).

This is where it gets weird.  Scientists figured out how to reproduce a similar state of social defeat stress in mice.  The first study I can find seems to have been from Golden et al., and made it into Nature protocols.  The way they do it is really complicated.  What I understand of it is that they purposely select hostile aggressive alpha mice and expose those to other mice to impose a strict social hierarchy.  Sound a little hokey?  Sure.  Feel like I would mess it up cause I can't when a mouse (or person...) is being aggressive?  Probably!  But there is a slew of literature to back up these models.

This is where we get over the the paper I want to talk about, called "Plasma and Liver metabolic profiles in mice subjected to subchronic and mild social defeat stress."  This enterprising group developed their own mouse model system to study the effects of mild social defeats.  I'm picturing this as not getting that promotion you really deserve, or being locked in a cage with a passive-aggressive mouse.  I don't know.

Regardless, though, we've all been in situations that we could call mild social defeats. (Heck, if you're reading my ramblings you're either a scientist...or just plain weird... in either case, situations that probably lead to higher-than-average social defeats) and they suck.

Turns out that sucky defeat feeling can cause a measurable shift in your metabolic profile and it can be detected in your urine.  Lots of potential applications of this informations, but I'm tired of typing this morning!!

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