Research finds stress accelerates immune aging


Immune aging is associated not only with cancer but with cardiovascular disease, increased risk of pneumonia, reduced efficacy of vaccines and organ system aging.
Published in the research of the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (PNAS) on June 13, a study explains age-related health inequalities, including the unequal toll of the pandemic on people, and identifies potential intervention points.

“As the world’s population of older adults increases, understanding disparities in age-related health is essential. Age-related changes in the immune system play a critical role in declining health,” said lead study author Eric Klopack, a postdoctoral scholar in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

“This study helps clarify mechanisms involved in accelerated immune aging.” As people age, the immune system naturally begins a dramatic downgrade, a condition called immunosenescence. With advanced age, a person’s immune profile weakens, and includes too many worn-out white blood cells circulating and too few fresh, “naive” white blood cells ready to take on new invaders.

Immune aging is associated not only with cancer but with cardiovascular disease, increased risk of pneumonia, reduced efficacy of vaccines and organ system aging. But what accounts for drastic health differences in same-age adults? USC researchers decided to see if they could tease out a connection between lifetime exposure to stress — a known contributor to poor health — and declining vigour in the immune system.