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Insights into the ageing immune system

Published on 13 April 2017

Roslin scientists uncover the effects of ageing on spleen structure and function.

Older people are more likely to get infections than the young and with the UK’s ageing population there is a real need to find novel treatments to improve immunity in the elderly.

The spleen is a key organ of the immune system that helps filter viruses and bacteria from the blood and thus, prevent infection. By examining the spleen of young and aged mice, Neil Mabbott and Vivian Turner reveal remarkable changes in the organisation of cells that make up the different regions of the spleen. The neat cellular organisation observed in young spleens is lost in aged spleens. The authors also show that these structural changes impair the ability of the spleen to clear blood-borne pathogens.

Future research into the mechanisms that underpin these age-related changes in the spleen will help develop novel therapeutic strategies to improve the ability of the elderly to fight infections.

The findings are published in Immunology and summarised in this accessible animation video: