Researchers from Boston University and Tufts Medical Center found that people who live to 100 years of age may have immune cells that are uniquely composed to provide higher protection against illness, USA Today reported.
According to Tufts University senior bioinformatician Tanya Karagiannis, a lead author in the study, which was published last Friday in the Lancet, the data compiled by the researchers supports the theory that those over 100 “have protective factors” that enable them “to recover from disease and reach extreme old age.”
Ordinarily, immune systems decline as we get older. However, there may be some who continue to maintain a robust immune system even at the age of 100, USA Today reported.
To test this theory, the researchers studied the immune cells from the blood of seven centenarians in North America and found immune-specific aging patterns. Comparing their data with information on the immune systems of people of varying ages, the researchers found that the immune profiles of the centenarians did not follow the trends normally associated with aging.
Instead, the centenarians showed a distinct immune cell composition with high-functioning immune systems that have adapted to illness, increasing their ability to fight off infections.
The researchers believe that these immune cells could reveal important mechanisms that could allow someone to recover from disease while living longer, healthier lives.
What is not clear is if the super immunity found in the immune cells is naturally occurring, genetic, or a combination of factors, according to senior author associate professor of medicine, biostatistics, and bioinformatics Stefano Monti of Boston University School of Medicine.
Monti said what makes people live longer is a complex question involving “multiple factors” like genetics, lifestyle, and luck.
At the same time, Boston University associate professor of medicine George Murphy said the study of the centenarians provides a “blueprint” for how to live healthier, more productive lives.