Age-related changes in immune function: Effect on airway inflammation

Paula J. Busse, Sameer K. Mathur

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Immunosenescence is defined as changes in the innate and adaptive immune response associated with increased age. The clinical consequences of immunosenescence include increased susceptibility to infection, malignancy and autoimmunity, decreased response to vaccination, and impaired wound healing. However, there are several immune alterations that might facilitate persistence of asthma into late adulthood or development of asthma after the age of 50 to 60 years. Asthma in older patients is not uncommon, and this is a growing population as the average lifespan increases. Specific innate changes that might affect severity of asthma in older patients or be involved in the development of late-onset asthma include impaired mucociliary clearance and changes in airway neutrophil, eosinophil, and mast cell numbers and function. Additionally, age-related altered antigen presentation and decreased specific antibody responses might increase the risk of respiratory tract infections. Respiratory tract infections exacerbate asthma in older patients and possibly play a role in the pathogenesis of late-onset asthma. Furthermore, cytokine profiles might be modified with aging, with some investigators suggesting a trend toward T H2 cytokine expression. This review examines specific innate and adaptive immune responses affected by aging that might affect the inflammatory response in older adults with asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-699
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Asthma
  • aging
  • atopy
  • elderly
  • immune function
  • immunosenescence


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