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The aging of immunity.

The aging of immunity

Communication between the brain and the immune systemappears to be more complex than many scientists have assumed. For example, in initial studies Steven J. Schleifer of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and his colleagues found that some immune responses of bereaved men and severely depressed patients are weaker than those of healthy controls (SN: 2/16/85, p. 100). But the same researchers now report that immune measures are far more likely to decline in depressed individuals who are middle-aged or older.

Schleifer and his co-workers used two substances to stimulatelymphocyte reproduction among 88 severely depressed patients and 88 healthy controls. Subjects ranged in age from 18 to 80. Depressed patients in their mid-40s and older had a smaller proliferation of lymphocytes than age-matched controls, while younger patients had the same or, in a few cases, greater lymphocyte responses than controls. In addition, the numbers of T-helper cells and natural killer cells, two components of the immune system, were markedly lower only among older depressed patients. The most severe cases of depression were associated with lower immune measures at all ages.

"We don't know what's going on in the immune systems ofdepressed people in relation to age,' says Schleifer. For instance, he explains, depression that begins during adolescence may alter immune function differently than depression that begins during middle age. "There's no simple relationship between immunity and depression,' adds Schleifer.
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Title Annotation:effects of aging on immune response and depression
Publication:Science News
Date:May 23, 1987
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