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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Mar;67(3):254-63. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glr237. Epub 2012 Mar 5.

T-cell biology in aging, with a focus on lung disease.

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Section of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, S525C TAC, 300 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


T cells are essential for defending hosts against microorganisms and malignancy as well as for regulating the development of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases like autoimmunity. Alterations in T-cell immunity occur with aging, affecting the function and proportions of T-cell subsets. Probably, the most noticeable age-associated change in T-cell immunity is an alteration in the frequency of naive and memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. In fact, the frequency of naive CD4+ and CD8+ T cells decreases with aging, whereas the frequency of memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells increases. Also, changes in T-cell proliferation, cytokine production, memory response, and cytotoxicity as well as in regulatory T-cell number and function have been reported with aging. Such alterations could contribute to the development of infections, malignancies, and inflammatory diseases that rise with aging. Of interest, T cells are closely involved in the development of inflammatory airway and lung diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which are prevalent in the elderly people. In addition, T cells play a major role in defending host against influenza virus infection, a serious medical problem with high morbidity and mortality in the elderly people. Thus, it is conceivable that altered T-cell immunity may account in part for the development of such respiratory problems with aging. Here, we will review the recent advances in T-cell immunity and its alteration with aging and discuss the potential effects of such changes on the lung.

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