Aging Immune System
It's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the population of Americans over age 65 numbered 37.3 million in 2006. By 2030, that number will have doubled to approximately 71.5 million. These statistics have many implications, but none as important as the possible impact this aging segment of our population will have on the nation's health-care system.
The primary goal of the Institute's research program on aging is not to extend human life, but rather to improve immune system function so that aging individuals can live healthy and productive lives.
Trudeau researchers are focusing their efforts toward understanding why, with increasing age, the immune system tends to be much less responsive to vaccinations. Studies in aging mouse models have shown that certain immune system cells needed to make a vaccine work its best do not function optimally. Trudeau scientists are now working to identify and stimulate other cells to perform the functions of the under-performing ones, essentially “changing the spark plugs” to give the immune system back a little of its former zip.
Complementary research underway is focused on the design of vaccine additives. All vaccines are delivered with oil or salt additives, called adjuvants, which augment immune response to the vaccine. Trudeau researchers are investigating the development of adjuvants that can specifically boost response to vaccines in aged individuals. This approach is straightforward and could lead to dramatically-enhanced protection from infectious diseases, such as influenza, for elderly populations.
Aging research is an inherently lengthy process but, as evidenced by the advent of modern drugs to treat diseases like Alzheimer's, for example, discoveries are already improving the day-to-day lives of millions of elderly patients and those who care for them.