The body’s immune system defends against attacks from infection-causing “foreign” invaders. This complex system fights off microbes, infected cells, and tumors, and can distinguish between these invaders and healthy tissues, reported. New research has now raised the possibility that an immune system could be boosted with a simple change in surroundings.

A new study by Queen Mary University of London has found evidence that an “enriched” environment influences the function of T cells, which are a type of white blood cell crucial for healthy immune function. Researchers found that altering a mouse's living space for a brief period of time caused dramatic changes to their T cells.

Mice were either in the normal environment, which consisted of a standard mouse cage filled with sawdust and nesting material, or an “enriched” surrounding which featured a wider cage with wood shavings and colorful toys.

"After only two weeks in an enriched environment with plenty of toys and space, the mice's immune systems were completely different and seemed to be better prepared for fighting infections. This effect is remarkable because we haven't given them any drugs, all we've done is change their housing conditions,” lead research Professor Fulvio D'Acquisto said, according to Medical Xpress. “You could say that we've just put them in their equivalent of a holiday resort for two weeks and let them enjoy their new and stimulating surroundings."

So, will a stimulating surrounding boost T cells and immunity in humans, too? Studies will need to be carried out in people before conclusions can be made, Medical Xpress reported.

"Although this clearly still needs to be tested in humans, it raises an interesting possibility. What if doctors were able to change a patient's environment and prescribe a two week holiday? Or perhaps we could boost the effects of standard drug treatments that deal with the mechanics of infection, by also offering something environmental that improves a patient's more general wellbeing. That might be a promising approach for treating chronic diseases,” Professor D'Acquisto said.

Source: Rattazzi L, et al. Impact Of Enriched Environment On Murine T Cell Differentiation And Gene Expression Profile. Frontiers in Immunology. 2016.

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