Purpose: Exposure to increased environmental temperatures is commonly used as a non-pharmacological treatment modality in ankylosing spondylitis (AS). We aimed to investigate systemic immunological effects of moderate whole body hyperthermia in patients with AS compared to healthy control subjects.
Materials and methods: Ten healthy control subjects and six AS patients underwent whole body hyperthermia treatment with 38.7-39 °C body core temperature over 60 min. Numbers of polymorphonuclear leucocytes and lymphocyte subsets, plasma concentrations of several acute phase reactants and cytokines, and gene expression levels of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR-4), interleukin 10 (IL-10) and heat shock protein beta 1 (HSPB1) were determined during and up to 24 h after treatment.
Results: TLR-4, IL-10 and HSPB1 gene expression increased significantly up to 3 h post treatment, with an earlier, higher and more pronounced increase of IL-10 in patients with AS. An increase of natural killer cells and CD8+ T lymphocytes was noted during active heating, with a subsequent decrease up to 2 h after treatment. CD4+ T lymphocytes showed a short increase during active treatment in AS patients, while decreasing immediately after start of treatment in control subjects. Neutrophil granulocytes increased significantly up to 3 h after treatment, monocytes and B lymphocytes remained unchanged. Likewise, no significant changes were found concerning systemic cytokine concentrations and acute phase reactants.
Conclusions: Our data support the concept of systemic immunological effects of moderate whole body hyperthermia in patients with AS.
Keywords: Ankylosing spondylitis; cytokines; hyperthermia; physiotherapy.