BACKGROUND: Sporadic inclusion body myositis (sIBM) is clinically characterised by progressive proximal and distal muscle weakness and impaired physical function while skeletal muscle tissue displays abnormal cellular infiltration of T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. Only limited knowledge exists about the effects of low-load blood flow restriction exercise in sIBM patients, and its effect on the immunological responses at the myocellular level remains unknown. The present study is the first to investigate the longitudinal effects of low-load blood flow restriction exercise on innate and adaptive immune markers in skeletal muscle from sIBM patients.
METHODS: Twenty-two biopsy-validated sIBM patients were randomised into either 12 weeks of low-load blood flow restriction exercise (BFRE) or no exercise (CON). Five patients from the control group completed 12 weeks of BFRE immediately following participation in the 12-week control period leading to an intervention group of 16 patients. Muscle biopsies were obtained from either the m. tibialis anterior or the m. vastus lateralis for evaluation of CD3-, CD8-, CD68-, CD206-, CD244- and FOXP3-positive cells by three-colour immunofluorescence microscopy and Visiopharm-based image analysis quantification. A linear mixed model was used for the statistical analysis.
RESULTS: Myocellular infiltration of CD3-/CD8+ expressing natural killer cells increased following BFRE (P < 0.05) with no changes in CON. No changes were observed for CD3+/CD8- or CD3+/CD8+ T cells in BFRE or CON. CD3+/CD244+ T cells decreased in CON, while no changes were observed in BFRE. Pronounced infiltration of M1 pro-inflammatory (CD68+/CD206-) and M2 anti-inflammatory (CD68+/CD206+) macrophages were observed at baseline; however, no longitudinal changes in macrophage content were observed for both groups.
CONCLUSIONS: Low-load blood flow restriction exercise elicited an upregulation in CD3-/CD8+ expressing natural killer cell content, which suggests that 12 weeks of BFRE training evokes an amplified immune response in sIBM muscle. However, the observation of no changes in macrophage or T cell infiltration in the BFRE-trained patients indicates that patients with sIBM may engage in this type of exercise with no risk of intensified inflammatory activity.