Researchers from UCL (University College London) have demonstrated how an interplay between nutrition, metabolism and immunity is involved in the process of ageing.
The two new studies, supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), could help to enhance our immunity to disease through dietary intervention and help make existing immune system therapies more effective.
As we age our immune systems decline. Older people suffer from increased incidence and severity of both infections and cancer. In addition, vaccination becomes less efficient with age.
In previous BBSRC funded work, Professor Arne Akbar's group at UCL showed that ageing in immune system cells known as 'T lymphocytes' was controlled by a molecule called 'p38 MAPK' that acts as a brake to prevent certain cellular functions.
They found that this braking action could be reversed by using a p38 MAPK inhibitor, suggesting the possibility of rejuvenating old T cells using drug treatment.
In a new study published today in Nature Immunology the group shows that p38 MAPK is activated by low nutrient levels, coupled with signals associated with age, or senescence, within the cell.
It has been suspected for a long time that nutrition, metabolism and immunity are linked and this paper provides a prototype mechanism of how nutrient and senescence signals converge to regulate the function of T lymphocytes.
The study also suggests that the function of old T lymphocytes could be reconstituted by blocking one of several molecules involved in the process. The research was conducted at UCL alongside colleagues from Complejo Hospitalario de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.
The second paper, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed that blocking p38 MAPK boosted the fitness of cells that had shown signs of ageing; improving the function of mitochondria (the cellular batteries) and enhancing thei
|Contact: Chris Melvin|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council