New research published in Nature Communications suggests that the increased metabolism of T cells that we see with advanced age is an indication that they need to work harder to survive. These findings go against previous explanations of declining T cell immunity in the elderly, which stated that an increased metabolism was indicative of T cell function.
The study was led by Professor Nicole La Gruta and Dr. Kylie Quinn from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and its findings have implications for the development of targeted interventions to treat age-related immune dysfunction.
"We've shown that an amped-up metabolism, rather than arming cells to fight pathogens better, is associated with T cell survival over a lifespan. The cells need to substantially increase their metabolism just to survive in the relatively hostile environment of the elderly," Professor La Gruta said.
"This work is important because one of the hallmarks of immune aging is the loss of T cells. So it provides clues on how we might promote T cell survival in the elderly, and so boost T cell immunity," Professor La Gruta said.
Because T cell immunity decreases as we age, we are more vulnerable to age-related immune diseases. Hence, this new knowledge provides insight on how to target treatments such as vaccines and immunotherapies that support metabolism in aging.
"Ultimately we want to support healthy aging by designing ways to improve T cell metabolism during cell-based immunotherapies such as CAR T cell therapy, and boosting T cell activation in new vaccines," said Dr. Quinn.