Interim director: Jorg Goronzy, M.D., Ph.D.
Investigators in the Immunology Program within the Kogod Center on Aging research immunologic processes during aging.
Immune aging is characterized by increased susceptibility to microbial infections and reduced responses to tumors and vaccines. In parallel, incidences of selected autoimmune diseases are increased and tissue infiltration with inflammatory cells accelerates degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease.
At the system level, immune aging is associated with a restructuring of immune cell composition due to a bias of hematopoietic stem cells to develop into myeloid cells. It's also associated with reduced generation of T cells in the thymus and of B cells in the bone marrow and with failure in peripheral homeostatic mechanisms. Changes in the lymphoid architecture impair cell-cell communication and coordination of an immune response.
Finally, changes at the single cell level occur, including somatic mutations, failure in DNA repair, epigenetic signatures including cellular senescence and exhaustion, and organelle dysfunction.
Research focus areas within the Immunology Program include:
- Developing a mechanistic understanding of the immunologic processes during aging.
- Identifying interventions that improve immune competence to control infections.
- Identifying interventions to reduce age-associated systemic low-grade inflammation, also referred to as inflammaging.