, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 563-572
Date: 15 Jan 2012

The role of the T cell in age-related inflammation

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Ageing is accompanied by alterations to T-cell immunity and also by a low-grade chronic inflammatory state termed inflammaging. The significance of these phenomena is highlighted by their being predictors of earlier mortality. We have recently published that the proinflammatory cytokine TNFα is a strong inducer of CD4+ T-cell senescence and T-cell differentiation, adding to the growing body of literature implicating proinflammatory molecules in mediating these critical age-related T-cell alterations. Moreover, the inflammatory process is also being increasingly implicated in the pathogenesis of many common and severe age-related diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, major age-related risk factors for poor health, such as obesity, stress and smoking, are also associated with an upregulation in systemic inflammatory markers. We propose the idea that the ensuing inflammatory response to influenza infection propagates cardiovascular diseases and constitutes a major cause of influenza-related mortality. While inflammation is not a negative phenomenon per se, this age-related dysregulation of inflammatory responses may play crucial roles driving age-related pathologies, T-cell immunosenescence and CMV reactivation, thereby underpinning key features of the ageing process.