Are you as old as what you eat? Researchers learn how to rejuvenate aging immune cells

Credit: Peter Häger/Public Domain

Researchers from UCL (University College London) have demonstrated how an interplay between nutrition, metabolism and immunity is involved in the process of aging.

The two new studies, supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), could help to enhance our immunity to disease through dietary intervention and help make existing system therapies more effective.

As we age our immune systems decline. Older people suffer from increased incidence and severity of both infections and cancer. In addition, vaccination becomes less efficient with age.

In previous BBSRC funded work, Professor Arne Akbar's group at UCL showed that aging in cells known as 'T lymphocytes' was controlled by a molecule called 'p38 MAPK' that acts as a brake to prevent certain cellular functions.

They found that this braking action could be reversed by using a p38 MAPK inhibitor, suggesting the possibility of rejuvenating old T cells using drug treatment.

In a new study published today in Nature Immunology the group shows that p38 MAPK is activated by low nutrient levels, coupled with signals associated with , or senescence, within the cell.

It has been suspected for a long time that nutrition, metabolism and immunity are linked and this paper provides a prototype mechanism of how nutrient and senescence signals converge to regulate the function of T lymphocytes.

The study also suggests that the function of old T lymphocytes could be reconstituted by blocking one of several molecules involved in the process. The research was conducted at UCL alongside colleagues from Complejo Hospitalario de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.

The second paper, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed that blocking p38 MAPK boosted the fitness of cells that had shown signs of ageing; improving the function of mitochondria (the cellular batteries) and enhancing their ability to divide.

Extra energy for the cell to divide was generated by the recycling of intracellular molecules, a process known as autophagy. This highlights the existence of a common signaling pathway in old/senescent T lymphocytes that controls their immune function as well as metabolism, further underscoring the intimate association between ageing and metabolism of T lymphocytes.

This study was conducted by researchers from UCL, Cancer Research UK, University of Oxford and University of Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Professor Arne Akbar said: "Our life expectancy at birth is now twice as long as it was 150 years ago and our lifespans are on the increase. Healthcare costs associated with ageing are immense and there will be an increasing number of in our population who will have a lower quality of life due in part to immune decline. It is therefore essential to understand reasons why immunity decreases and whether it is possible to counteract some of these changes.

"An important question is whether this knowledge can be used to enhance immunity during aging. Many drug companies have already developed p38 inhibitors in attempts to treat inflammatory diseases. One new possibility for their use is that these compounds could be used to enhance immunity in older subjects. Another possibility is that dietary instead of drug intervention could be used to enhance immunity since metabolism and senescence are two sides of the same coin."

More information: The kinase p38 activated by the metabolic regulator AMPK and scaffold TAB1 drives the senescence of human T cells by Lanna et al is published in Nature Immunology: DOI: 10.1038/ni.2981

p38 signaling inhibits mTORC1-independent autophagy in senescent human CD8+ T cells by Henson et al is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Ducklet
not rated yet Aug 24, 2014
Since malnutrition is practically nonexistent in the first world, this would probably be of most interest in the developing and formerly socialist parts of the world. However, the problem there isn't rocketing healthcare costs but a more baseline lack of healthcare, combined with living standards where people don't get old enough in sufficient numbers for age-related illnesses to be a significant burden.
FMM
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2014
I've read this several times and don't see where it says anything.
mooster75
1 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2014
"Professor Arne Akbar said: "Our life expectancy at birth is now twice as long as it was 150 years ago and our lifespans are on the increase."

Professor Arne Akbar is an idiot and a fool. Our life expectancy at birth is twice as long as it was 150 years ago because the overwhelming majority of us actually survive childhood now.
Vietvet
not rated yet Aug 25, 2014
"Professor Arne Akbar said: "Our life expectancy at birth is now twice as long as it was 150 years ago and our lifespans are on the increase."

Professor Arne Akbar is an idiot and a fool. Our life expectancy at birth is twice as long as it was 150 years ago because the overwhelming majority of us actually survive childhood now.


She didn't give a reason for a doubling of life expectancy at birth, I think you're being a bit harsh. She was addressing the problems associated with an increase of old people(like me) suffering the ravages of inflammatory diseases and possible treatments.
Mike_Massen
5 / 5 (1) Aug 25, 2014
Ducklet offering this seems oblivious
Since malnutrition is practically nonexistent in the first world, this would probably be of most interest in the developing and formerly socialist parts of the world..
to the huge issue re lack of minerals & bio active compounds in the 'average' american diet.

WHO released a report a few years ago or were part author of a study that showed 79% of americans were below their RDI for copper. All 1st world countries don't seem to have an interest in maintaining a level of minerals that humans have adapted to for some 6000 or so years...

http://en.wikiped...n_health

There are of course others Eg Molybdenum & Selenium the latter of which seriously affected Sheep In western australia...
Mike_Massen
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2014
Vietvet commented
..She was addressing the problems associated with an increase of old people(like me) suffering the ravages of inflammatory diseases and possible treatments.
There is a doco on this I have just heard about & in process of adding it to my collection of 780+ health docos !
Titled:-
"Genetic Roulette - The Gamble of Our Lives"
Which touches on genetically modified organisms (GMO) & especially one from Monsanto which includes genes to produce a bacterial toxin, ostensibly as a natural pesticide to destroy the guts of insects but, hey insect guts are not 'that' different to humans - it is still digestion of carbs & proteins. Many issues re gut & inflammatory diseases & evidence for them coming from so called 'hidden' GMOs are becoming recognised as the major culprit, the rise of these types of diseases appears correlated to a degree with GMO distribution & ingestion...

Good luck,