Researchers have discovered that a compound found commonly in grape skins and red wine affects the immune systems of dogs in different ways.

The researchers believe that the findings could eventually lead to the use of the red wine compound, resveratrol, in treatments of cancer and other diseases in dogs and humans.

"This study makes it clear that resveratrol does cause the immune systems of dogs to change,” said Sandra Axiak-Bechtel, assistant professor in oncology at University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in the US.

"We found that resveratrol simultaneously causes dogs’ immune systems to increase and decrease in different ways,” Axiak-Bechtel noted.

"If we can better understand why resveratrol makes these changes and learn to control them, the chemical may have valuable uses in treatments of cancer and other diseases in dogs and humans," she explained.

For their study, Axiak-Bechtel, and colleagues added resveratrol to canine blood and measured innate immune system function.  

They found that resveratrol caused the stimulated white blood cells to release more pro-inflammatory and fewer anti-inflammatory cytokines, which are signals cells use to communicate with each other during infection and inflammation.

These cytokines point to a stimulated immune system. However, the researchers also observed a decrease in the ability of neutrophils, which are immune cells that help fight diseases, to kill bacteria.  

This points to decreased immune system strength, Axiak-Bechtel said.

"Seeing a decrease in neutrophil function typically means an immune system is losing the ability to kill invaders like bacteria," Axiak-Bechtel noted.

"It is clear that resveratrol is having a distinct effect on how the immune system reacts, but we still do not fully understand how this reaction can be best used to fight disease,” Axiak-Bechtel said.

"Once we have a better understanding of this process, resveratrol could be a valuable supplementary treatment in fighting diseases like cancer," she pointed out.

This study was published in the journal Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology.