Our society gets older, people live longer. The price we pay: infectious diseases can easier overcome the immune system. Like all organs, the immune system does not function flawlessly in old age. A new collaboration of university and non-university research institutes and two companies is investigating why our immune defence is getting weaker when we become old. The project "GERONTOSHIELD", funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), now received a 2.6 Million Euro funding for the next three years. "GERONTOSHIELD" is part of the BMBF programme "Systems biology for a better health in old age GerontoSys2" that promotes systems biological approaches to find out the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for ageing. The kick off meeting of the new research network took place at the German Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, Germany, on March 31st and April 1st, 2011.
A better understanding and new approaches to optimize therapies for the elderly in the future is the goal of the scientific partners. The scientific coordination is located at the department of "Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology", headed by Professor Carlos A. Guzmn, at the HZI in Braunschweig.
The immune system has to deal with a loss of cells in old age. Furthermore, the remaining cells react less efficiently to infections or vaccinations. Finally, most drugs are optimized for young adults. "Every tenth person over 65 dies due to the flue," says project coordinator Professor Carlos A. Guzmn. "We still know too little about which changes occur in an ageing immune system." Thus, it is necessary to optimize existing therapies and to develop new approaches to treat diseases in the elderly, says Guzmn.
Here, adjuvants play an important role, chemical compounds that boost the immune system and improve the efficiency of a vaccination. Guzmn and his group want to understand how young and old immune systems react to
|Contact: Dr. Bastian Dornbach|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres