In a breakthrough study, researchers at the University of Arizona have found that Cytomegalovirus(CMV) boosts the immune system in old age. It is well established that the immune system is stronger in young age and weakens with age. That is the reason why older people are susceptible to infections. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is predominantly present in 50% of the individuals and it is pretty harmless in healthy adults. With a view to rejuvenate the immune system in old age, scientists from the University of Arizona turned their attention towards CMV virus. Although the virus does not manifest any visible symptoms our immune system is busy fighting with it in the background.
The researchers thought of investigating the impact of CMV on the immune system. For this purpose they infected the older mice with CMV, they perceived that the CMV would weaken the immune system. However, that was not to be the case! When they infected the mice with listeria bacteria older mice with CMV proved to be tougher compared to the older mice without CMV. This is a rather baffling and completely unexpected outcome.
It is generally perceived that the diversity of T-cells, (a type of lymphocytes that are critical for cell-mediated immunity) decreases with age. As a result, people of old age are more prone to infections compared to younger adults. But when the team analysed the T-cells of both groups of older mice with and without CMV they have a decent quantity of T-cells almost similar to young mice. This is perhaps a myth buster to the already existing hypothesis. But the scientists are unsure about the role CMV plays to boost immunity in older mice.
However, it appears the T-cells have not recruited the site of infection without the aid of CMV. This indicates that there exists the ability to elicit an immune response even in old age. CMV might act as a catalyst to the process and assists in the immune response in old age. The research is led by Megan.J. Smithey and her team of the University of Arizona.
The Research study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences