Background: The number of elderly patients with end-stage kidney disease requiring kidney transplantation continues to grow. Evaluation of healthy older adults has revealed proinflammatory changes in the immune system, which are posited to contribute to age-associated illnesses via "inflamm-aging." Immunologic dysfunction is also associated with impaired control of infections. Whether these immunologic changes are found in older kidney transplant recipients is not currently known, but may have important implications for risk for adverse clinical outcomes.
Methods: Three months after transplant, innate immune phenotype was evaluated by flow cytometry from 60 kidney transplant recipients (22 older [≥60 years] and 38 younger [<60 years old]). Multiplex cytokine testing was used to evaluate plasma cytokine levels. Younger patients were matched to older patients based on transplant type and induction immune suppression.
Results: Older kidney transplant recipients demonstrated decreased frequency of intermediate monocytes (CD14++CD16+) compared with younger patients (1.2% vs 3.3%, P = 0.007), and a trend toward increased frequency of proinflammatory classical monocytes (CD14++CD16-) (94.5% vs 92.1%) (P = 0.065). Increased levels of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) were seen in older patients.
Conclusions: In this pilot study of kidney transplant recipients, we identified differences in the innate immune system in older as compared with younger patients, including increased levels of IFN-γ. This suggests that age-associated nonspecific inflammation persists despite immune suppression. The ability to apply noninvasive testing to transplant recipients will provide tools for patient risk stratification and individualization of immune suppression regimens to improve outcomes after transplantation.