From 1900 to date, human life expectancy has more than doubled from 31 years to 73.2. This number is also expected to increase to 77.1 in 2050. Additionally, the number of people reaching the age of 100 or more is also on the rise. This article examines the findings scientists have made in relation to living longer.
What Happens to Your Immune System as You Age?
As you age, all body parts experience changes, including your immune system. Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician, and director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, said there are two concepts relating to immune system changes as your body changes. He said the first is immunosenescence, the age-related process of immune dysfunction. Kaiser also said these changes are closely related to autoimmune disease and various types of cancer.
Dr. Kaiser said the second concept is the issue of inflammaging. This term describes increases in inflammation due to high levels of pro-inflammatory markers in your blood. He also said this is a strong risk factor for different health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Studying an ‘Elite’ Immunity
Dr. Tanya Karagiannis, a senior bioinformatician at Tufts Medical Center, said her team chose to study the immune systems of centenarians. This was done to examine the changes in how their immune systems function. For this study, researchers performed single-cell sequencing on immune cells known as peripheral blood mononuclear cells(PBMCs).
Upon analysis, the researchers discovered that centenarians had cell-type signatures unique to exceptional longevity. This was found in both genes expressed uniquely in centenarians and with age-related changes. Karagiannis said their findings could provide a foundation to explore drivers of old age. She also said these could lead to the discovery of healthy aging therapeutics.
New Therapies for Aging-related Diseases
After reviewing the study, Dr. Kaiser said it was interesting because it looked at people who have aged extremely well. He also said the potential learned from the study makes researchers remain resilient.
Kathleen Cameron, a senior director of the National Council on Aging’s Center for Healthy Aging, said understanding the immune changes can help people live longer. She also said it could lead to treatments that prolong human life. Cameron said this study could lead to more studies to assist healthcare professionals in understanding immune resilience.
By studying centenarian immune systems, researchers can extend human life. In the meantime, you can consult your doctor for ways to boost your immune system and keep it healthy.