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British Society for Immunology response to a paper investigating a hormone implicated in immune function and longevity in mice

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has reported the identification in mice of a hormone able to prevent the age-associated reduction in thymus activity. The authors suggest that it might be useful in delaying the age-associated decline in immune function which is associated with ageing.

Dr Donald Palmer, Associate Professor in Immunology at Royal Veterinary College and British Society for Immunology spokesperson, said:

“This is a very interesting and encouraging study which demonstrates the possibility of delaying the age-associated decline in immune function that is recognised to occur in the aged. The thymus is a key organ associated with deterioration of immune function in the aged and is responsible for the production of T cells. In this study, the group identified a hormone that was able to prevent the age-associated reduction in thymus activity and showed that this hormone was able to produce new T cells in ‘middle-age’ mice. While these studies only involve mice, it does highlight the possibility to manipulate the immune system and could provide the platform for further research involved in boosting immune function.”

The full paper that this comment is in response to can be found at: Youm et al. 2016 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 1026–1031 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514511113