Oct 22, 2021 1 min, 5 secs
Closing such a major education center for T cells means that they can’t learn to recognize new infections or fight off cancer effectively in older people.

A promising area of research is looking at signals that the body sends to help make more immune cells, particularly a molecule called IL-7.

Another approach is to use the food supplement spermidine to trigger immune cells to clear out their internal garbage, such as damaged proteins, which improves the elderly immune system so much that it’s now being tested as a way of getting better responses to COVID vaccines in older people.

In the lab, drugs like rapamycin (called mTOR inhibitors) make senescent (aged) human cells look and behave like their younger selves.

However, the dose is critical and newer drugs such as RTB101 that work in a similar way to rapamycin support the immune system in older people, and can even reduce COVID infection rates and severity.

Removing senescent cells also helps people.

Senescent cells also make the lungs more susceptible to COVID infection, and COVID makes more cells become senescent.

Importantly, getting rid of senescent cells in old mice helps them to survive COVID infection.

Older people get more infectious diseases as their immune systems start to run out of steam, while infection drives faster aging through senescence.

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