One of the signatures of aging & living an unhealthy life is the weakening of our adaptive immune system (low immune function), often called immunosenescence. These immune dysfunctions are the consequence of declines in both the generation of new naïve T and B lymphocytes and the functional competence of our memory cell populations. This decline appears to be due to a variety of causes. Thymic involution which starts at an early age can be one of the highlighted contributors outside of known stressors. “The thymus begins to shrink (atrophy) after our teens, by middle age life it’s just as small as 15% of its maximum size. Aging & lifestyle can greatly adjust our hormonal products. Suffers of chronic inflammation may take anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone which inhibit immune function. Also, changes in patterns of epigenetic markers alter gene activation so as to reduce responsiveness of T cells with age. Immune boosting treatments such as natural killer cell therapy can restore low immune function and greatly support cancer prevention.
Too Many “Memory T-Cells”
Memory T-cells form when our immune system successfully destroys an unwanted cells or foreign body. They maintain this information of how to destroy unwanted invaders and are ready to take action when that same cancer cell, virus or bacteria reappears.
Most people would think its favourable to have many memory T-cells. However, the issue is that memory T-cells only will act against the same prior infections. During our lifetimes we can build up excessive numbers of memory T-cells and produce fewer critically important naïve T-cells.
A naïve immune cell is one that has not been activated by an antigen (a substance that provokes an adaptive immune response). Since it is “ naïve” (not yet exposed to an antigen), naïve immune cells are primed to effectively respond to new infectious agents and malignancies.
Once exposed, naïve immune cells become memory cells or plasma cells specific to the original antigen. As our internal reservoir of naïve immune cells is decreased, we have less ability to respond to new infections and malignancies.
To make matters worse, excess numbers of senescent memory cells provoke undesirable inflammatory reactions that are thought to underlie most age-related diseases including atherosclerosis, cancer, and dementia.
To put this in simplistic terms, if we are to protect against the ravages of immune senescence, we need to increase our numbers of naïve cells (“virgin” immune cells), while reducing numbers of surplus senile memory cells.
Importance Of “Functional” Natural Killer Cells
The first line of defense against virus-infected and cancer cells is our natural killer cells. Young individuals have high levels of functional natural killer (NK) immune cells, but this declines with aging.
In elderly subjects, decreased NK cell activity is associated with an increased incidence and severity of viral infections such as shingles, influenza, and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Shingles occurs when our immunity to dormant chickenpox viral infection declines. It manifests as an extremely painful skin lesion that can last for months.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a virus that inflicts its lethal effects mostly on the elderly, who represent the largest portion of the population that suffers immune dysfunction.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a chronic infection that, as you’ll discover later in this issue, may contribute significantly to degenerative disease. About 90% of older people showed history of CMV infection on lab testing compared to about 60% of the general population. Increased prevalence of CMV in the elderly is thought to lead to decreased immune surveillance.
Natural killer cells originate in the bone marrow (like other immune cells) and go through a maturation process that enables them to participate in early control of microbial infections and cancers.
Cancer Prevention: Healthy NK function is critical in eliminating transformed cancer cells. NK cells are also involved in the elimination of senescent cells that otherwise cause chronic inflammation.
The age-related decrease in functional NK cells is likely to have wider implications for the health of older adults than currently understood by the mainstream. If an aging person is to better manage debilitating and deadly infections and malignancies, maintaining youthful NK function is critical.
Consequences Of Immune Cell Exhaustion
Over the course of our lifetime, our immune system becomes “exhausted.” What this refers to is the excess accumulation of worn-out memory T-cells and reduced production of vital naïve T-cells.
As people accumulate exhausted T-cells, an adverse consequence is these senile memory cells emit pro-inflammatory cytokines that exacerbate chronic inflammatory conditions. Individuals with higher levels of exhausted immune cells suffer greater mortality.
The deficit of naïve immune cells combined with over accumulation of exhausted memory cells decreases the efficacy (antibody response) of vaccinations.
Exhausted memory T-cells are associated with increased inflammation.Inflammation is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, impaired vascular function, vascular inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction.
An accumulation of exhausted T-cells has been seen in persons suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory disease of the spine).
Compelling evidence points to the accumulation of senile (exhausted) T-cells as a factor that accelerates a broad array of age-associated diseases.
Reversing Immune Senescence
Immune senescence is a prime cause of debility and mortality.
Fortunately, discoveries in recent years have been shown to help reverse the immune dysfunction that plagues virtually all aging humans (and cancer patients).
Here is a summary of the six underlying causes of immune senescence:
- Decrease in naïve immune T-cells needed to fight new invaders.
- Increase in exhausted memory T-cells that create chronic inflammatory reactions.
- Decrease in functional natural killer (NK) cell activity.
- Thymus gland atrophy that reduces T-cell function and numbers.
- Too many regulatory T-cells and a reduction in T-helper cells.
- Excess production of interleukin-6, a cytokine that promotes inflammation.
The good news is that there are proven ways to counteract all six factors involved in senile immune dysfunction – ImmuneCells21 Low Immune Function Treatment.