Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A frenzy in bodily regulation can actually strengthen a person's immune system, which may help in fighting cancer and diabetes, new research suggests.
When a cellular protein called NF-kB shifts to a chaotic state, it activates certain genes that can enhance the immune system, according to findings published this month in Nature Communications.
"The results can have a tremendous impact on our understanding of how the immune system functions and how the incidence of some of the most serious illnesses, including diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's, might be avoided," Mogens Høgh Jensen, a professor in biocomplexity at the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute and study author, in a news release.
"For example, we know that cancer is related to a failure of signaling within the body. So, to avoid cancer, it is imperative to have the right dynamic at work in cells," Jensen said.
Using a math concept called chaotic dynamics, the researchers show how a protein, in this case NF-kB, can activate otherwise dormant genes -- jumpstarting the immune system.
"These could come in the form of new medications that ensure proper protein function," said Mathias Heltberg, a doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute. "Therapies could also involve the withdrawal and testing of cells from a body to gauge whether cells are in the right condition to have the correct swings. If they aren't, it may be possible to predict and discover illnesses before they occur."
The researchers say this experiment is the first to demonstrate how chaos can help bring about "chaotic complexity," which can hopefully lead to healthy outcomes for people.
"Chaos is a mathematically well-defined dynamic, one that, for example, has previously been used to explain great changes in weather systems. With the enormous complexity that characterizes higher order living things, it is evident that chaotic dynamics will occur in different types of systems. But how chaos plays a decisive role in living cells is entirely new," Jensen said.