Drugs & Aging

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 589–603 | Cite as

Dysregulation of T-Cell Function in the Elderly

Scientific Basis and Clinical Implications
  • Tamas Fulop
  • Anis Larbi
  • Anders Wikby
  • Eugenio Mocchegiani
  • Katsuiku Hirokawa
  • Graham Pawelec
Review Article


The function of the immune system is to maintain body integrity by defending against infections, cancers, autoimmune diseases and inflammation-related chronic diseases. The immune response is known to become defective with aging, leading to decreased longevity and appearance of age-related disease. The most important changes occur in T-cell immunity, and are manifested particularly as altered clonal expansion of cells of limited antigen specificity. The causes of these alterations are multifactorial, and include thymic involution, T-cell subset changes and signal transduction alterations. The clinical consequences of these changes are not well defined, except for their extremely important negative impact on defence against infections, especially by new pathogens, and decreased responses to vaccination. Considering the public health consequences of decreased immune competence in old age, strategies for immune response modulation are desirable to decrease the health burden for the elderly and improve their quality of life.



This work was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (no. 63149), ImAginE (EU contract no. QLK6-CT-1999-02031), ZINCAGE project (EU contract no. FOOD-CT-2003-506850), T-cell in aging (T-CIA) [EU contract no. QLK6-2002-02283].

The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamas Fulop
    • 1
  • Anis Larbi
    • 1
  • Anders Wikby
    • 2
  • Eugenio Mocchegiani
    • 3
  • Katsuiku Hirokawa
    • 4
  • Graham Pawelec
    • 5
  1. 1.Immunology Program, Geriatric Division, Research Center on Aging, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  2. 2.Department of Natural Science and Biomedicine, School of Health SciencesJönköping UniversityJönköpingSweden
  3. 3.Section Nutrition, Immunology Center, Immunity and Ageing, Research DepartmentItalian National Research Centres on AgeingAnconaItaly
  4. 4.Departments of Pathology and Immunology, Ageing and Developmental SciencesTokyo Medical and Dental University Graduate School, Bunkyo-kuTokyoJapan
  5. 5.Section for Transplantation Immunology and Immunohaematology, Second Department of Internal Medicine, Tübingen Ageing and Tumour Immunology GroupUniversity of Tübingen Medical School, Zentrum für Medizinsche ForschungTübingenGermany

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