Why is Stress More Dangerous for Overweight People

Brandeis University
Waltham, Massachusetts
Open Access
Raised of $2,275 Goal
Ended on 11/02/14
Campaign Ended
  • $382
  • 17%
  • Finished
    on 11/02/14

About This Project

Overweight and obese individuals have greater immune responses to repeated stress than leaner individuals. These immune responses can be dangerous since they increase risk of things like atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke. I want to figure out why overweight people have these dangerous responses so we can figure out how to help them lead healthier lives.

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What is the context of this research?

The immune systems of overweight people are more activated than leaner people. The immune system is powerful and it does damage to the body when it is not properly controlled. Stress stimulates the immune system in people of all body types and levels of the immune protein IL-6 increase in the blood. However, overweight people show much larger IL-6 responses to repeated stress, and we don't know why.

TNF is another important immune protein that is involved in responding to stress. We want to investigate whether TNF responses are greater in overweight individuals and if this explains their bigger IL-6 responses (TNF stimulates IL-6).

What is the significance of this project?

More than 2/3 of US adults are overweight. These people are already at risk for a number of diseases just because they have excess body fat. Stress is also a prevalent part of the lives of many Americans. This project is critical to help us understand why obesity makes stress responses so much more dangerous by understanding what makes overweight people's immune response bigger than in leaner people.

What are the goals of the project?

  • My immediate goal for this project is to measure TNF responses to stress
  • I will then determine whether these responses are also greater in overweight and obese individuals
  • I will determine whether the size of the TNF response to stress predicts the leptin response to stress, and might imply that TNF causes increases in leptin


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In order to measure TNF levels and begin to figure out why overweight people have greater stress responses, I need the supplies to measure TNF concentrations from human blood. These ELISA plates will allow me to load samples from human blood onto them, add a series of chemicals and proteins, and measure TNF from our participants.

These plates are expensive and without the funding, I cannot afford to do this project.

Meet the Team

Christine McInnis
Christine McInnis

Team Bio

I began studying how stress impacts the immune system in 2012. As I learned more, I became very interested in obesity and the immune system. Everyone knows that obesity and stress are each bad for you, but fewer people know about how much more dangerous stress is when you are carrying extra body fat. Even less is known about why this happens, and I want to figure out why!

I love that this project combines so many of my interests. It involves neuroscience, biology, medicine and psychology, which keeps me really interested.

Outside of lab, I love to exercise. I enjoy running, playing tennis, swimming, hiking...all sorts of things! If I'm not in the lab or sleeping, I'm probably exercising. Or eating ice cream. Life is all about balance, right?

Press and Media

Articles in the press about the publication leading up to this proposal

Original Publication

Additional Information

This is me preparing to measure immune system activation in blood from one of our participants!

Project Backers

  • 8Backers
  • 17%Funded
  • $382Total Donations
  • $47.75Average Donation
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