Following Up on Rebooted Immune Systems

A safe technology platform to allow destruction and recreation of our immune systems would offer a lot of promise for addressing issues that arise in the aging immune system.

One main reason your immune system fails with age appears to be that chronic infections by the likes of cytomegalovirus (CMV) cause too many of your immune cells to be - uselessly - specialized. ... researchers are looking into a possible way of clearing these infections from the body. ...

The flip side of clearing out CMV is to reboot your immune system. Clean it out and start afresh, absent the clutter of memory cells devoted uselessly to CMV that were crowding out the naive T cells needed to respond to new threats. There's more to the aging of the immune system than just this process of crowding, but it's a good start.

Trials are taking place in which specific diseases of the immune system are addressed by destruction and recreation - but it's not at present a procedure you'd enjoy all that much, having more in common with chemotherapy than medicine of the future. But hopefully we all recall that safe, painless elimination of specific cell types through nanotechnology targeting systems is on the way, and fairly advanced in the laboratory. That will make rebooting an immune system a much more practical prospect.

In any case, here is an update on one of the trials of immune system rebooting in recent years, in which the autoimmune disease of type 1 diabetes was effectively cured:

Patients who underwent a procedure to wipe out the immune system and reconstitute it with their own stem cells remained insulin injection-free for up to three to four years after the procedure ... The report extends research published in 2007 showing that the majority of 15 patients who underwent a blood stem-cell transplant were able to remain insulin-free for more than 18 months.

One component of aging is that we all suffer from increasingly deranged, broken, and misconfigured immune systems. On the one hand your immune system become hyper-sensitive and creates constant low-grade inflammation that causes all sorts of issues, and on the other hand it becomes ineffective at its primary functions - fighting pathogens, killing senscent cells, and eliminating cancer cells. It's on all the time, burning resources and causing damage, but not doing you any good.

I look forward to the years ahead in which we can have an old immune system cleared out and reset in an efficient and safe manner, using targeted cell killers and stem cell therapies.