The immune system and aging: a review

Gynecol Endocrinol. 2014 Jan;30(1):16-22. doi: 10.3109/09513590.2013.852531. Epub 2013 Nov 12.


Abstract The concept of immunosenescence reflects age-related changes in immune responses, both cellular and serological, affecting the process of generating specific responses to foreign and self-antigens. The decline of the immune system with age is reflected in the increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, poorer response to vaccination, increased prevalence of cancer, autoimmune and other chronic diseases. Both innate and adaptive immune responses are affected by the aging process; however, the adaptive response seems to be more affected by the age-related changes in the immune system. Additionally, aged individuals tend to present a chronic low-grade inflammatory state that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many age-related diseases (atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis and diabetes). However, some individuals arrive to advanced ages without any major health problems, referred to as healthy aging. The immune system dysfunction seems to be somehow mitigated in this population, probably due to genetic and environmental factors yet to be described. In this review, an attempt is made to summarize the current knowledge on how the immune system is affected by the aging process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cellular Senescence / immunology
  • Endocrine System / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / etiology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology

Supplementary concepts

  • Immune Deficiency Disease