Immunomodulating activity of MDMA
by
Pacifici R, Zuccaro P, Farre M, Pichini S,
Di Carlo S, Roset PN, Hernandez Lopez C,
Ortuno J, Segura J, Cami J, de la Torre R
Clinical Biochemistry Department,
Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Roma, Italy.
Ann N Y Acad Sci 2000; 914:215-24


ABSTRACT

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) use can cause neurochemical, behavioral and endocrine alterations, similar to those produced by exposure to acute stress, suggesting its potential as a "chemical stressor." It is known that stressful stimuli can produce a depression of immune function and an alteration in immune cells distribution. In vitro exposure to MDMA resulted in a modulation of several immune functional parameters such as T-cell regulatory function, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte activity, natural killer cell activity and macrophage function. Administration of MDMA in rats produced a rapid and sustained suppression of induced lymphocytes proliferation and a significant decrease in circulating lymphocytes. These alterations in rat immune function were accompanied by a significant rapid increase in plasma corticosterone concentrations. It was postulated that the result of altered induced proliferation response of lymphocytes could have been due to a combined effect of direct action of MDMA on lymphocytes and to the activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis) and/or the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) via central mechanisms. In humans, acute MDMA treatment produced a time-dependent immune dysfunction associated with MDMA plasma concentrations. Although total leukocyte count remained unchanged, there was a decrease in CD4+ T-cells and functional responsiveness of lymphocytes to mitogenic stimulation, while percentage of natural killer cells significantly increased. A rise of cortisol plasma concentrations similar to that observed in the rat model supported the hypothesis of MDMA-induced release of corticotrophin-releasing factor from the median eminence of the hypothalamus and subsequent HPA axis and SNS activation. The present findings indicate that MDMA ingestion may represent a potential health hazard for an increased risk of immune system-related diseases.

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MDMA: a chemical stressor of the immune system


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