Mechanism by which mindfulness meditation can be effective in treating chronic inflammatory conditions

Kaliman, P., et al. (2014). Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 40, 96-107. Full text.

From the Abstract: A growing body of research shows that mindfulness meditation can alter neural, behavioral and biochemical processes. However, the mechanisms responsible for such clinically relevant effects remain elusive.

Here we explored the impact of a day of intensive practice of mindfulness meditation in experienced subjects  on the expression of circadian, chromatin modulatory and inflammatory genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). In parallel, we analyzed a control group of subjects with no meditation experience who engaged in leisure activities in the same environment. PBMC from all participants were obtained before and after the intervention and gene expression was analyzed using custom pathway focused quantitative-real time PCR assays. Both groups were also presented with the Trier Social Stress Test.

After the brief intervention we detected reduced expression of histone deacetylase genes, alterations in global modification of histones and decreased expression of pro-inflammatory genes in meditators compared with controls. The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions. Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.