Immunosenescence and Its Hallmarks: How to Oppose Aging Strategically? A Review of Potential Options for Therapeutic Intervention

Front Immunol. 2019 Sep 25;10:2247. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02247. eCollection 2019.


Aging is accompanied by remodeling of the immune system. With time, this leads to a decline in immune efficacy, resulting in increased vulnerability to infectious diseases, diminished responses to vaccination, and a susceptibility to age-related inflammatory diseases. An age-associated immune alteration, extensively reported in previous studies, is the reduction in the number of peripheral blood naïve cells, with a relative increase in the frequency of memory cells. These two alterations, together with inflamm-aging, are considered the hallmarks of immunosenescence. Because aging is a plastic process, it is influenced by both nutritional and pharmacological interventions. Therefore, the role of nutrition and of immunomodulation in immunosenescence is discussed, due to the multifactorial influence on these hallmarks. The close connection between nutrition, intake of bioactive nutrients and supplements, immune function, and inflammation demonstrate the key role of dietary strategies as regulators of immune response and inflammatory status, hence as possible modulators of the rate of immunosenescence. In addition, potential options for therapeutic intervention are clarified. In particular, the use of interleukin-7 as growth factor for naïve T cells, the function of checkpoint inhibitors in improving T cell responses during aging and, the potential of drugs that inhibit mitogen-activated protein kinases and their interaction with nutrient signaling pathways are discussed. Finally, it is suggested that the inclusion of appropriate combinations of toll-like receptor agonists may enhance the efficacy of vaccination in older adults.

Keywords: aging; immunomodulation; immunosenescence; immunotherapy; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cell Count
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Immunosenescence / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Interleukin-7 / immunology
  • Interleukin-7 / metabolism
  • Nutritional Status
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • IL7 protein, human
  • Interleukin-7