T cells with dysfunctional mitochondria induce multimorbidity and premature senescence
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Young mice that have dysfunctional mitochondria in their T cells exhibit tell-tale signs of premature ageing.
As we age, our immune systems tend to become less effective in staving off pathogens. But they also can cause a chronic, low-grade overactivation of the immune system, appropriately named inflammaging, that exacts a toll on healthy cells and tissues.
Now, a team led by researchers at the Spanish National Research Council has found that seven-month-old mice engineered to lack a key protein in the mitochondria of their T cells exhibited symptoms reminiscent of inflammaging. These included impairments to their metabolism, memory, muscles and cardiovascular system.
The disruption to mitochondria caused the T cells to become highly inflammatory, so that they spewed out chemicals that cause cells to stop dividing and growing.
This implies that the immune system plays a role in accelerating ageing — a finding that could help with the development of future therapies for ageing-related conditions.
- Science 368, 1371–1376 (2020). doi: 10.1126/science.aax0860