September 30, 2012

Blocking key protein could halt age-related decline in immune system, study finds

The older we get, the weaker our immune systems tend to become, leaving us vulnerable to infectious diseases and cancer and eroding our ability to benefit from vaccination. Now Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have found that blocking the action of a single protein whose levels in our immune cells creep steadily upward with age can restore those cells’ response to a vaccine.

This discovery holds important long-term therapeutic ramifications, said Jorg Goronzy, MD, PhD, professor of rheumatology and immunology and the senior author of a study published online Sept. 30 in Nature Medicine. It might someday be possible, he said, to pharmacologically counter aging’s effects on our immune systems.