Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 367, Issue 3, pp 469–480 | Cite as

Mechanisms of lung aging

  • Christina Brandenberger
  • Christian Mühlfeld


Lung aging is associated with structural remodeling, a decline of respiratory function and a higher susceptibility to acute and chronic lung diseases. Individual factors that modulate pulmonary aging include basic genetic configuration, environmental exposure, life-style and biography of systemic diseases. However, the actual aging of the lung takes place in pulmonary resident cells and is closely linked to aging of the immune system (immunosenescence). Therefore, this article reviews the current knowledge about the impact of aging on pulmonary cells and the immune system, without analyzing those factors that may accelerate the aging process in depth. Hallmarks of aging include alterations at molecular, cellular and cell–cell interaction levels. Because of the great variety of cell types in the lung, the consequences of aging display a broad spectrum of phenotypes. For example, aging is associated with more collagen and less elastin production by fibroblasts, thus increasing pulmonary stiffness and lowering compliance. Decreased sympathetic airway innervation may increase the constriction status of airway smooth muscle cells. Aging of resident and systemic immune cells leads to a pro-inflammatory milieu and reduced capacity of fighting infectious diseases. The current review provides an overview of cellular changes occurring with advancing age in general and in several cell types of the lung as well as of the immune system. Thereby, this survey not only aims at providing a better understanding of the mechanisms of pulmonary aging but also to identify gaps in knowledge that warrant further investigations.


Pulmonary aging Cellular senescence Immunosenescence Pulmonary cells Lung function Microbiome ᅟ 



The authors’ work is supported by DFG via the Cluster of Excellence Rebirth, BMBF via the Deutsches Zentrum für Lungenforschung (DZL) and by the Hochschulinterne Leistungsförderung (HilF) of the Hannover Medical School.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Brandenberger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christian Mühlfeld
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Functional and Applied AnatomyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH (From Regenerative Biology to Reconstructive Therapy)HannoverGermany
  3. 3.Biomedical Research in Endstage and Obstructive Lung Disease Hannover (BREATH)Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL)HannoverGermany

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