Intense Human Social Bonds and Healthy Gene Expression

Social isolation is associated with disease and mortality, as well as changes in immune cell gene expression, including upregulation of pro-inflammatory genes and downregulation of antiviral genes. Both transcriptional dynamics are likely to contribute to the health risks associated with social isolation. Despite strong interest in social relationships, transcriptional responses, and health, what remains unexplored is the flip side of isolation: intense social connection. Does the development of a new deep social bond have the power to reverse the pro-inflammatory/anti-antiviral skew in human immune cells? The primary goal of this project is to explore whether the formation of intense social bonds produces health promoting transcriptional responses in human immune cells, thereby reducing inflammation and disease risk.

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