Ageing and the immune system: focus on macrophages

Eur J Microbiol Immunol (Bp). 2015 Mar;5(1):14-24. doi: 10.1556/EUJMI-D-14-00035. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


A fully functioning immune system is essential in order to maintain good health. However, the immune system deteriorates with advancing age, and this contributes to increased susceptibility to infection, autoimmunity, and cancer in the older population. Progress has been made in identifying age-related defects in the adaptive immune system. In contrast, relatively little research has been carried out on the impact of ageing on the innate immune response. This area requires further research as the innate immune system plays a crucial role in protection against infection and represents a first line of defence. Macrophages are central effector cells of the innate immune system and have many diverse functions. As a result, age-related impairments in macrophage function are likely to have important consequences for the health of the older population. It has been reported that ageing in macrophages impacts on many processes including toll-like receptor signalling, polarisation, phagocytosis, and wound repair. A detailed understanding of the impact of ageing on macrophages is required in order to develop therapeutics that will boost immune responses in the older population.

Keywords: ageing; immune system; macrophage; phagocytosis; polarisation.

Publication types

  • Review