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“Lost” immune cells and reduced vaccine response

New research has explained that the organisation of the germinal centre – which is vital to the generation of longer-lived protection following vaccination – is altered with ageing.

By demonstrating that these age-related changes can be reversed in mice, the research sets the foundation for interventions that bolster an effective vaccine response.

After a vaccination our immune system reacts by creating germinal centres that produce B cells that provide long-term protection through antibody production.

Due to an age-dependent impairment in antibody production, older people have lower levels of protection from vaccination, which also wanes more quickly compared to younger people.

Understanding how the age-related decline of the immune system can be reversed or mitigated is an important part of securing better health in later years.

Through a combination of mouse research, computer modelling and analysis of human vaccination data, the research team from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge was able to show that changes to key interactors of B cells in the light zone of the germinal centre, T follicular helper cells, and also to light-zone specific cells called follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), were at the heart of the diminished vaccination response.

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