Send to

Choose Destination
Gerontology. 2018;64(2):135-139. doi: 10.1159/000478091. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

The Hayflick Limit and Age-Related Adaptive Immune Deficiency.

Author information

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cape Town, South Africa.


The adaptive immune system (AIS) acquires significant deficiency during chronological ageing, making older individuals more susceptible to infections and less responsive to vaccines compared to younger individuals. At the cellular level, one of the most striking features of this ageing-related immune deficiency is the dramatic loss of T-cell diversity that occurs in elderly humans. After the age of 70 years, there is a sharp decline in the diversity of naïve T cells, including a >10-fold decrease in the CD4+ compartment and a >100-fold decrease in the CD8+ compartment. Such changes are detrimental because the AIS relies on a diverse naïve T-cell pool to respond to novel pathogens. Recent work suggests that this collapse of naïve T-cell diversity results from T cells reaching the Hayflick limit and being eliminated through both antigen-dependent and -independent pathways. The progressive attrition of telomeres is the molecular mechanism that underlies this Hayflick limit. Therefore, we propose that by measuring the telomere lengths of T cells with high resolution, it is possible to develop a unique biomarker of immune deficiency, potentially much better correlated with individual susceptibility to diseases compared to chronological age alone.


Adaptive immunity; Hayflick limit; Homeostasis; Immune ageing; Positive feedback

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for S. Karger AG, Basel, Switzerland
Loading ...
Support Center