The Immunoepidemiology of Aging
Age-related changes in man are particularly evident, structurally and functionally, in the thymus and thymus-dependent lymphocyte population as judged by several indices of integrity of the T cell system, whereas B cell functions appear to be relatively well preserved.
All reported human population studies point to an incremental increase with aging of various autoantibodies and, since autoantibodies are associated with degenerative vascular disease, particularly in males, vascular degeneration appears to be mediated in part through autoimmune mechanisms. There is also evidence that age-associated failure of the thymus-dependent immune functions predisposes to mortality.
Thus the contribution of thymic failure to aging is determined in several ways, either by defective “helper” and effector functions, so predisposing to infections and emergence of cancer, or by defective suppressor functions, so predisposing to autoimmunity and autoantibody-mediated vascular disease.
KeywordsRheumatoid Factor Gamma Globulin Mixed Lymphocyte Culture Total Antibody Smooth Muscle Antibody
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