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Jessica N. Lancaster, Ph.D., investigates age-associated alterations to the immune system. Dr. Lancaster's research focuses on the development and response of T cells and B cells, members of the immune system that are exquisitely tailored to their targets and are essential for resolving infectious threats. Using advanced live-cell imaging, Dr. Lancaster directly visualizes T and B cells as they interact within their organ microenvironments in order to understand how communication within the immune system breaks down with age.
As the immune system ages, it is less able to combat new pathogens and responds poorly to vaccination, making the elderly more vulnerable to infectious disease. The aged immune system also has more trouble recognizing cancer, making therapy less effective in elderly patients. At the same time, the immune system is more likely to be activated inappropriately, leading to increased incidence of autoimmune disease. As an ever-increasing segment of the world's population reaches the age of 65 years and older, it is critical to understand why the immune system changes with age in order to develop strategies to improve immunity and quality of life.
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