Impact of anorexia nervosa on activation characteristics of lymphocytes.

OBJECTIVES: Anorexia nervosa (AN), a disease of chronic human starvation has a deep impact on the function of several organ systems. We hypothesized that disturbed cellular activation may contribute to complications in AN. We tested our assumption on short-term activation kinetics of lymphocytes.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Blood was taken from 11 AN and 10 healthy adolescents. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated and CD4+ lymphocytes were then activated with phythohemagglutinin for the determination of calcium-influx and membrane potential. Moreover, cells were also activated by anti-CD3/anti-CD28 coated beads and three days after the prevalence of interleukin-2 positive CD4+ cells were determined.

RESULTS: After activation, more time was required to reach maximal calcium content in CD4+ cells of AN patients than in those of controls (control vs. AN (median, range): 86 [45-232] vs. 215 [59-235] second, p<0.05), but the rate of membrane potential alteration was similar. The number of interleukin 2 positive CD4+ cells was lower in AN (11.50 [7.60-15.30] vs. 13.50 [12.00-22.00] %, p<0.05). No association was detected between cell activation and any of clinical or anthropometric data of AN patients.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that AN may have an impact on calcium handling of the cells and, hence, cell activation characteristics. We assume that altered calcium flux kinetics may contribute to complications present in AN.

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