You might recall a Rejuvenation Research paper from last year that put forward evidence to suggest that some age-related mental deterioration stems from a declining immune system.
Aging is often associated with a decline in hippocampus-dependent spatial memory. Here, we show that functional cell-mediated immunity is required for the maintenance of hippocampus-dependent spatial memory.
As you probably know by now, our immune systems have not evolved for perpetual use. Their very structure and function results in an increasing level of disarray and malfunction with advancing age and usage. A failing immune system doesn't just mean greater vulnerability to pathogens, however. It also means damaging chronic inflammation, the accumulation of damaging senescent cells, and an increasing risk of cancer - all of which negatively impact life expectancy and the likely future of your health.
Which is not to mention this memory issue, further outlined in a more recent paper:
The factors that determine brain aging remain a mystery. Do brain aging and memory loss reflect processes occurring only within the brain? Here, we present a novel view, linking aging of adaptive immunity to brain senescence and specifically to spatial memory deterioration. Inborn immune deficiency, in addition to sudden imposition of immune malfunction in young animals, results in cognitive impairment. As a corollary, immune restoration at adulthood or in the elderly results in a reversal of memory loss. These results, together with the known deterioration of adaptive immunity in the elderly, suggest that memory loss does not solely reflect chronological age; rather, it is an outcome of the gap between an increasing demand for maintenance (age-related risk-factor accumulation) and the reduced ability of the immune system to meet these needs.
The immune system plays an important role in so many processes in the body. As researchers continue to document our biochemistry, it becomes increasingly evident that we need to develop the means to repair an age-damaged immune system. A few possible approaches have been discussed in the past here at Fight Aging!
- Regenerating the thymus, the source of immune cells
- Destroy and reconstruct the immune system, thereby cleaning out such defects as too many memory cells dedicated to cytomegalovirus
- Reconfiguring the immune system through transplanted cells and signaling mechanisms
Other ways forward exist. It appears to be the case that great benefits to health and longevity could be realized if we could just reliably rejuvenate an old immune system, clearing out its errant programming and repairing its damage.
Ron-Harel, N., & Schwartz, M. (2009). Immune senescence and brain aging: can rejuvenation of immunity reverse memory loss? Trends in Neurosciences DOI: 10.1016/j.tins.2009.03.003