Long-lived clonal T cells deficient in CD28 expression are commonly found in patients with inflammatory syndromes and persistent infections. Considering that CD28 loss is the most consistent immunological marker of aging, we propose that, in pathological states, CD28(null) T cells represent prematurely senescent cells resulting from persistent immune activation. These unusual lymphocytes have aberrant functions that contribute to disease-related immune abnormalities, and the degree of accumulation of CD28(null) T cells predicts the severity of clinical manifestations. We suggest that understanding of the biological properties of T cells that have reached replicative senescence will influence the future management of certain diseases. Indeed, studies on the molecular basis for the loss of CD28 are already providing information on methods to functionally rescue senescent T cells.