Written by 10:52 pm Immunology

Rejuvenating an Aging Immune System

Immune System

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

As we age, our immune system becomes less effective, making us more susceptible to diseases and less responsive to vaccinations. But what if there was a way to reverse this process and make an old immune system young again?

This is exactly what stem-cell researcher Carolina Florian and her team have been working on. In their experiments, researchers used older laboratory mice. They discovered a drug that targets a specific type of stem cell. This drug could rejuvenate the animals. Their coats became sleeker and they became more active.

Further experiments by other labs replicated these findings, providing more evidence that the treatment was indeed rejuvenating the mice. Two papers were published in 2020 and 2022. They described an approach that extended the lifespan of mice. This approach also kept the mice fit as they aged.

The key target of this elixir is the immune system. The stem cells being treated are known as haematopoietic or blood stem cells. These cells develop into all the immune cells in the body. As these cells circulate throughout the body, they affect all bodily functions.

As we get older, the molecular makeup of our stem cells changes. This change impacts the balance of immune cells that are produced. By correcting this imbalance, Florian’s team found that many problems associated with aging were also fixed.

In March 2024, a research team found that changing the balance between two key types of immune cells can rejuvenate the immune systems of old mice. This improved the animals’ ability to respond to vaccines and fight off viral infections.

The Connection Between Immune System Aging and Organ Aging

Interestingly, other experiments have also shown that rejuvenating the immune system can also rejuvenate many organs in the body, at least in mice. This suggests that immune system aging may actually drive the aging of these organs.

The potential of this research to help people remain healthy in their later years is exciting. However, translating this knowledge into clinical applications will be challenging. Manipulating the complex immune system can have unintended consequences, so researchers are proceeding with caution.

For now, the focus is on low-risk goals such as improving older people’s responses to vaccinations and making cancer immunotherapies more efficient. But the prospect of reversing immune aging to control age-related diseases is certainly enticing.

The prospect that reversing immune ageing may control age-related diseases is enticing. – Vittorio Sebastiano, stem-cell scientist at Stanford Medical School

The Complexity of the Human Immune System

The human immune system is a complex network of cells and molecules that work together to protect our bodies from infections and diseases. As we age, this system becomes less effective due to changes in its composition.

The immune system consists of two main parts. The first is the fast-acting innate system, which indiscriminately destroys pathogens. The second is the precise adaptive system, which learns to recognize specific foreign bacteria and viruses. Both of these components are produced by haematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow.

As we get older, our stem cells begin to form into two primary groups: lymphoid and myeloid. These groups produce various types of immune cells. Researchers aim to target these stem cells to correct age-related changes and imbalances. By doing so, they hope to rejuvenate the immune system and boost the health of older individuals.

To learn more about this research and its potential impact on aging, check out the original article published by Nature. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have a way to make our immune systems young again!

Thanks for reading!

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Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. AI-generated images are used only for illustration and decoration. Their accuracy, quality, and appropriateness can differ. Users should avoid making decisions or assumptions based only on these images.


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