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