Today’s open access paper is a survey of the known ways in which the aged immune system contributes to disruption of function in the cardiovascular system. As the selected snippets illustrate, this is a relationship dominated by chronic inflammation. Raised and constant inflammation is characteristic of the systematic failure of the immune system in late life: it becomes both overactive and ineffective, and the consequent inflammation causes detrimental reactions in many important cell populations.
In the short term inflammation is useful, a necessary part of the response to infection and injury. When it runs without cease, however, the result is a loss of function in vital tissues – such as the vascular system – that ultimately proves fatal. For example, inflammation contributes to vascular stiffness by degrading the normal activities of smooth muscle cells. This causes hypertension, which in turn causes pressure damage to fragile tissue structures and accelerates the development of atherosclerosis. The combination of hypertension and atherosclerosis later results in the catastrophic rupture of a stroke or heart attack.
Thus repairing the contributing causes of immune aging is an important goal for our broader rejuvenation