New research suggests the possibility of temporarily reversing the effects of aging on immunity.
ScienceDaily — Researchers have discovered a new mechanism controlling aging in white blood cells. The research, published in the September issue of the Journal of Immunology, opens up the possibility of temporarily reversing the effects of aging on immunity and could, in the future, allow for the short-term boosting of the immune systems of older people.
Weakened immunity is a serious issue for older people. Because our immune systems become less effective as we age we suffer from more infections and these are often more severe. This takes a serious toll on health and quality of life.
Professor Arne Akbar of UCL (University College London), who led this research, explains "Our immune systems get progressively weaker as we age because each time we recover from an infection a proportion of our white blood cells become deactivated. This is an important process that has probably evolved to prevent certain cancers, but as the proportion of inactive cells builds up over time our defenses become weakened.
"What this research shows is that some of these cells are being actively switched off in our bodies by a mechanism which hadn't been identified before as important in aging in the immune system. Whilst we wouldn't want to reactivate these cells permanently, we have an idea now of how to wake them from their slumber temporarily, just to give the immune system a little boost."