Lung rejuvination – Inflammation-associated changes

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natural_history_TB

More than 9 million people worldwide are estimated to have active TB infections, and about 1.4 million people die of tuberculosis each year.

“The elderly are most likely to die of TB. They get sicker. They’re not the biggest population that gets infected with TB, but they can develop the worst cases,” said Turner, an associate director of Ohio State’s Center for Microbial Interface Biology (CMIB).

Current study compared lung cells from old and young mice and found that in the old mice, genes that make three classic pro-inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, were more active in the lungs of old mice.

{The cytokines are interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). In addition, immune system cells called macrophages in the lungs from old mice were in an advanced state of readiness to fight an infection – a status that signals inflammation. Macrophages in young mouse lungs were in a normal, resting state}

Study suggested that the inflammation in the lungs of elderly mice had the direct effect of reducing the long-term effectiveness of their immune response to TB infection, Turner said.

{Old mice in the study were 18 months old – equivalent to about 65 in human years – and young mice were 3 months old, a similar age to human young adults}

“The inflammation-associated changes that we saw in the lung were a small finding, but an important finding because the implications are great,” Turner said. “We should be able to modify the environment in the lung. If we can reverse the inflammatory environment in a very straightforward way, that is a positive.”

Plausible ways to reduce inflammation in the context:

1. “…reduce your inflammation as you age by being lean, eating well and exercising – “Inflammation is associated with sickness and frailty” – Stay fit and live longer.

2. “Ibuprofen* works on specific pathways to lower inflammation, and that might help with control of TB.”

*The researchers gave old and young mice ibuprofen in their food for two weeks and then examined their lung cells. After this diet modification, several pro-inflammatory cytokines in the lungs of old mice had been reduced to levels identical to those in the lungs of young mice, and the macrophages in old mouse lungs were no longer in a primed state.

Word of caution:

Though this line of work (i.e., application of ibuprofen) might someday support the use of ibuprofen as an adjunct therapy for elderly people with TB, Turner emphasized that she and colleagues are not recommending use of the drug for the purposes of lowering inflammation.

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