Immunosenescence and Human NK Cells

  • Rajabather Krishnaraj
Part of the GWUMC Department of Biochemistry Annual Spring Symposia book series (GWUN)


Of the three major cellular components of the lymphoid system, both T- and B-cell systems have been fairly well investigated with special reference to senescence-related changes in man and experimental animals (Makinodan and Kay, 1976; Weksler, 1982). It is widely believed that a general decline in immune competence (as seen in aging) is related to the high incidence of cancer. Despite the fact that the natural killer (NK) cells are known to play a role in immunosurveillance against malignancy and viral infection, and the regulation of hematopoiesis (Herberman and Holden, 1978, Trinchieri and Perussia, 1984), there are no strong data linking a vigorous NK cell system with healthy cancer-free survival to old age in humans. Peripheral blood NK activity is known to increase gradually from birth to adulthood (Herberman and Holden, 1978). However, the dynamics of the NK system from adulthood to old age (aging effect?) have not been studied systematically in healthy volunteers. Previously available literature showed equivocal results or had some methodological problems. In trying to investigate the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the immunosenescent changes in the NK cell system, we have asked three major questions:
  1. 1.

    Is it possible to demonstrate experimentally, an age-associated, but not necessarily an age-dependent change (see Chapter 11 this volume), in human peripheral blood NK activity by a multitechnique approach? The resulting pattern of NK cell dynamics should be qualitatively consistent with different traditional as well as unconventional techniques and experimental conditions used to quantitate the NK activity.

  2. 2.

    Would such a functional change in NK activity—whether positive or negative— have a cellular basis? If so, would those phenotypic alterations be unique to the aging process?

  3. 3.

    Are there parallel immunosenescent changes in the non-null cel (T and B) systems? Do the NK cells have an immunoregulatory influence on the non-NK cell immune systems of an aging individual?



Natural Killer Natural Killer Activity Human Natural Killer Cell Peripheral Blood Natural Killer Cell Natural Killer Subset 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajabather Krishnaraj
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, College of MedicineUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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