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Immunity and Ageing

, 10:38

First Online: 06 September 2013Received: 14 March 2013Accepted: 11 August 2013


BackgroundAs the European population is getting older, there is growing need in scientific data on how to achieve healthy and successful aging. A decline in immune function with age is unanimously supported by many epidemiological and clinical observations, with a decrease in T-cell mediated function encompassing a large part of this alteration. In the EU-funded VITAGE project, the effects of aging on biomarkers of immune status are being studied in three European countries. According to strict inclusion-exclusion criteria, a cohort of 300 healthy male non-smoking 20–75 years old volunteers were enrolled in France n = 99, Spain n = 100 and Austria n = 101. In each country, the volunteers were classified as a function of age one age group per decade. Biomarkers of immune status were determined including delayed-type hypersensitivity tests, measurement of lymphocyte surface markers, and serum determinations of interleukin-2, complement fractions and immunoglobulins.

ResultsThere were moderate differences in the biomarkers of immune status of the VITAGE study volunteers among the three European centres. The percentage of Natural Killer NK cells was 156% and 142% higher in Spain as compared to France and Austria, respectively p < 0.0001, and this increase was observed at any age group above 30 years. Comparison between age-groups showed that in Spain, but not in France or Austria, older individuals had significantly a lower B lymphocyte distribution and conversely, a higher NK cell distribution. Moreover, the CD4-CD8 ratio was positively correlated with age in Austrian subjects p < 0.0001.

ConclusionOur results provide evidence of an increased NK cell distribution in the elderly, especially in the Spanish population. NK cell status may predict morbidity and mortality in the elderly, emphasizing the importance of innate as well as adaptive immunity in ensuring healthy longevity and cancer resistance, possibly in link with the Mediterranean diet.

KeywordsAging Immune status Europe Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1742-4933-10-38 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Marie-Paule Vasson - Marie-Chantal Farges - Nicolas Goncalves-Mendes - Jérémie Talvas - Josep Ribalta - Brigitte Winklhofe


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