The human body’s immune system weakens over time, making older adults more susceptible to infections and leaving scientists with the puzzling dilemma of how to maintain health across the lifespan. As part of continuing research at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, a recent study into how infection affects the immune system resulted in a surprising outcome that could lead to new immunotherapies to prevent disease and novel ways to strengthen the aging immune system. The immune system uses T cells, white blood cells that defend against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites, to fight infection. Prior research by Janko Nikolich-Žugich, MD, PhD, Professor and Head of the U Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Immunobiology, found that both the number and function of naïve T cells--those that have never responded to an infection before--were negatively affected by aging.
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