Age-related deterioration in immune function has been recognized in many species. In humans the clinical manifestation of such immune dysfunction is age-related increases in the susceptibility to certain infections and in the incidence of some autoimmune disease and certain cancers. Laboratory investigations reveal age-related changes in the peripheral T cell pool, in the predominant phenotype, cytokine production profiles, signalling function and in replicative ability following stimulus with antigen, mitogens or anti-CD3 antibody. These changes in the properties of peripheral T cells are thought to be causally linked to an age-associated involution in the thymus. Our analysis reveals that thymic involution is due to a change in the thymic microenvironment linked to a reduction in the level of available interleukin 7. Treatment with interleukin 7 leads to a reversal of thymic atrophy with increased thymopoiesis. This provides the potential to reverse the immune dysfunction seen in the peripheral T cell pool by replacing old cells with new output generated in the thymus. Problems to overcome in order for such an experimental therapy to be successful require careful analysis in order to provide an optimal strategy to ensure that new T cell emigrants from the thymus have a broad range of specificities and are able to enter the peripheral T cell pool.
Conference Article| February 01 2000
Immunosenescence: potential causes and strategies for reversal
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R. Aspinall, D. Andrew; Immunosenescence: potential causes and strategies for reversal. Biochem Soc Trans 1 February 2000; 28 (2): 250–254. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/bst0280250
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