Age-Related Changes in the Immune Response to Bone Injury

The aged immune system becomes consistently biased towards inflammation, existing in a state of constant low-grade unresolved inflammatory signaling. This changes cell behavior for the worse, and is disruptive to processes that require transient inflammation and participation of immune cells, such as regeneration following injury, or clearance of infectious pathogens. Here researchers discuss some of the details relating to the participation of the immune system in regeneration following bone injury. It is interesting to note the sizable differences between sexes, in addition to those introduced by aging.

Inflammation is thought to be dysregulated with age leading to impaired bone fracture healing. However, broad analyses of inflammatory processes during homeostatic bone aging and during repair are lacking. Here, we assessed changes in inflammatory cell and cytokine profiles in circulation and in bone tissue to identify age- and sex-dependent differences during homeostasis and repair. During homeostatic aging, male mice demonstrated accumulation of CD4+ helper T cells and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells within bone while both pro-inflammatory "M1" and anti-inflammatory "M2" macrophage numbers decreased. Female mice saw no age-associated changes in immune-cell population in homeostatic bone.

Concentrations of IL-1β, IL-9, IFNγ, and CCL3/MIP-1α increased with age in both male and female mice, whereas concentrations of IL-2, TNFα, TNFR1, IL-4, and IL-10 increased only in female mice - thus we termed these "age-accumulated" cytokines. There were no notable changes in immune cell populations nor cytokines within circulation during aging. Sex-dependent analysis demonstrated slight changes in immune cell and cytokine levels within bone and circulation, which were lost upon fracture injury. Fracture in young male mice caused a sharp decrease in number of M1 macrophages; however, this was not seen in aged male mice nor in female mice of any age.

Injury itself induced a decrease in the number of CD8+ T cells within the local tissue of aged male and of female mice but not of young mice. Cytokine analysis of fractured mice revealed that age-accumulated cytokines quickly dissipated after fracture injury, and did not re-accumulate in newly regenerated tissue. Conversely, CXCL1/KC-GRO, CXCL2/MIP-2, IL-6, and CCL2/MCP-1 acted as "fracture response" cytokines: increasing sharply after fracture, eventually returning to baseline. Collectively, we classify measured cytokines into three groups: (1) age-accumulated cytokines, (2) female-specific age-accumulated cytokines, and (3) fracture response cytokines. These inflammatory molecules represent potential points of intervention to improve fracture healing outcome.


Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.