The role of immune system is to protect the organism from the not built-in program-like alterations inside and against the agents penetrating from outside (bacteria, viruses, and protozoa). These functions were developed and formed during the evolution. Considering these functions, the immune system promotes the lengthening of lifespan and helps longevity. However, some immune functions have been conveyed by men to medical tools (e.g., pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, and prevention), especially in our modern age, which help the struggle against microbes, but evolutionarily weaken the immune system. Aging is a gradual slow attrition by autoimmunity, directed by the thymus and regulated by the central nervous system and pineal gland. Considering this, thymus could be a pacemaker of aging. The remodeling of the immune system, which can be observed in elderly people and centenarians, is probably not a cause of aging, but a consequence of it, which helps to suit immunity to the requirements. Oxidative stress also helps the attrition of the immune cells and antioxidants help to prolong lifespan. There are gender differences in the aging of the immune system as well as in the longevity. There is an advantage for women in both cases. This can be explained by hormonal differences (estrogens positively influences both processes); however, social factors are also not excluded. The endocrine disruptor chemicals act similar to estrogens, like stimulating or suppressing immunity and provoking autoimmunity; however, their role in longevity is controversial. There are some drugs (rapamycin, metformin, and selegiline) and antioxidants (as vitamins C and E) that prolong lifespan and also improve immunity. It is difficult to declare that longevity is exclusively dependent on the state of the immune system; however, there is a parallelism between the state of immune system and lifespan. It seems likely that there is not a real decline of immunity during aging, but there is a remodeling of the system according to the claims of senescence. This is manifested in the remaining (sometimes stronger) function of memory cells in contrast to the production and number of the new antigen-reactive naive T-cells.
- endocrine disruptors
- hormonal imprinting
- immune system
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)