Your apartment could be affecting your immune system

With flu season around the corner, you might have the typical ways to strengthen your immune system, like eating the right foods and getting enough sleep, in mind. But a new study in Frontiers in Immunology has uncovered another surprising factor in your ability to ward off illness: your living space.

Queen Mary University of London researchers manipulated the environments that mice were living in: Some stayed in ordinary cages with sawdust and paper strips for nesting, and others resided in big cages with wood chips and toys (think those ones you used to buy for your hamster). Then, they took samples of white blood cells called T-cells and exposed them to a substance that acts in the same way as an infection.

In addition to having a more fun space to move around in, the last group of mice actually enjoyed tremendous health benefits. After just two weeks of living in big spaces filled with toys, the mice's white blood cells released molecules the way they do when they're fighting off an infection, and certain genes involved in healing were strengthened.

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Though a similar study has not yet been done on humans, this could suggest that living in a more spacious, enjoyable environment might prevent you from getting sick. "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," lead author Fulvio D'Acquist said in a press release. "What if doctors were able to change a patient's environment and prescribe a two week holiday?" It does sound a lot more fun than taking vitamins.

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