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Aging Dis. 2012 Feb;3(1):34-50. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Integration of immunity with physical and cognitive function in definitions of successful aging.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA.


Studies comparing chronologically "young" versus "old" humans document age-related decline of classical immunological functions. However, older adults aged ≥65 years have very heterogeneous health phenotypes. A significant number of them are functionally independent and are surviving well into their 8(th)-11(th) decade life, observations indicating that aging or old age is not synonymous with immune incompetence. While there are dramatic age-related changes in the immune system, not all of these changes may be considered detrimental. Here, we review evidences for novel immunologic processes that become elaborated with advancing age that complement preserved classical immune functions and promote immune homeostasis later in life. We propose that elaboration such of late life immunologic properties is indicative of beneficial immune remodeling that is an integral component of successful aging, an emerging physiologic construct associated with similar age-related physiologic adaptations underlying maintenance of physical and cognitive function. We suggest that a systems approach integrating immune, physical, and cognitive functions, rather than a strict immunodeficiency-minded approach, will be key towards innovations in clinical interventions to better promote protective immunity and functional independence among the elderly.


Immune remodeling; NK cells; Older adults; Successful aging; T cells

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