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Editor's Pick: Composition of the infiltrating immune cells in the brain of healthy individuals: effect of aging

In several infectious, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions the central nervous system (CNS) is heavily infiltrated by immune cells, due to the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. However, low numbers of immune cells are also present in the brain of healthy individuals, translocating across the blood-CSF barrier. In this study, 22 cell types, representative of natural and adaptive immune cells, were identified in 13 different brain regions of 55 subjects, donors without overt disease affecting the brain. The proportion of immune cells was determined by multiple gene signatures (WGS, WES and RNA-Seq) and analyzed by the cytometry tool CIBERSORTx, thus establishing the cell subtypes using levels of expression of 547 signature genes. The data show that macrophages M0 and resting memory CD4+ cells were the most abundant in all but one region (spinal cord where macrophages were less represented) and naïve CD4+ cells – but not naïve B cells - were consistently absent. The effect of aging was to increase the presence of innate immune cells (mainly monocytes) and decrease all adaptive immune cells (mainly CD8+ lymphocytes and follicular helper T cells, but also plasma cells, CD4+ cells and NK cells), in some cases in distinctive brain regions. This unique map of immune cells in the “normal” CNS is a useful guide to assess the changes observed in disease. The age associated changes in the composition of infiltrating immune cells are consistent with a role in tissue homeostasis and reflect similar changes described in peripheral immunosenescence.

by Tapio Nevalainen, Arttu Autio & Mikko Hurme

All Editor's Picks

Topical Collection: Mice, women and men: species and sex differences in the role of the thymus in immunosenescence

New Content ItemThe thymus is critical for the development and generation of self-restricted and immunocompetent self-tolerant T cells. The thymus undergoes age-related reduction in size and activity (age-associated thymic involution) which leads to a reduction of T cell output and possibly contributes to the clinical features of immunosenescence. Despite the evidence that age-associated thymic involution appears to occur in almost all vertebrates, the mechanisms underlying this process are still not comprehensively known.

This Topical Collection accordingly aims to solicit papers on any aspect of age-associated thymic involution and how this impacts the ageing immune system in humans and mice, along with other species. The focus of the Collection will be sex- and species-specific differences regarding the role of thymic involution in immune senescence. Reviews, original articles, commentaries, hypotheses and opinion pieces are all very welcome.

Image credit: Ivy Mallick

Topical Collection: Immunobiology of Human Space Exploration

New Content ItemSpace travel is associated with immune dysregulation that may increase clinical risk in future exploration crew. Prolonged orbital spaceflight missions have shown a number of immune and clinical changes that are akin to advanced human aging, including alterations to the peripheral T-cell and NK-cell compartments, impairments in humoral immunity, latent viral reactivation, and persistent hypersensitivity. We seek articles that are focused on immune dysregulation during spaceflight and spaceflight analog environments, particularly when immunological endpoints that overlap with human aging are considered. Articles focused on the effectiveness of countermeasures designed to mitigate the risk of immune dysregulation during space travel are particularly encouraged.

Topical Collection: Immunobiology of the mucosal system

New Content ItemMucosal immunology is the study of immune responses of the oral, lung, intestine and urogenital areas of the body. The mucosal environment as well the microbiome interacts with the immune system to have a profound effect. Advancing age is characterized by susceptibility to infections and other diseases of the mucosa. An example is the recent COVID-19 pandemic. We seek articles on all aspects of mucosal immunology and aging including increase incidence in infectious diseases, changes in the microbiome, mucosal vaccines and delivery systems, age-related changes in regeneration and repair mechanisms as well as clinical articles. Articles may be commentaries or original research.

Topical collection: Comparative Immunosenescence

New Content ItemOur knowledge of the negative consequences of the important differences of immune function seen in younger and older individuals is scarce, and mostly limited to humans, mice and to some extent monkeys and companion animals. However, comparative studies of the health impacts of immune ageing in other species, potentially including invertebrates, and in kingdoms other than animals, are scarcer still, but might shed light on some common features required for survival in a dangerous world. This Topical Collection accordingly aims to solicit papers on any aspect of immune ageing in species other than humans and mice. Reviews, original articles, commentaries, hypotheses and opinion pieces are all very welcome.

Topical Collection: Towards Biomarkers of Human Immunosenescence

New Content Item‘Immunosenescence’ describes the multifactorial changes in the immune system with advanced age. To increase our understanding of the conditions of immune function in aging, the focus of this special issue is to document biomarkers of age-related immune conditions. We seek articles which highlight validated biomarkers or approaches to quantify immune aging, clarify heterogeneity among changes that accrue in aging, identify mechanisms underlying the altered state, or highlight where interventions may serve to improve health.  Articles may be commentaries or original research. Articles especially welcomed will address conceptual topics, detectable biomarkers, or clinical implications.

Topical collection: Neuroimmunology and Ageing

New Content ItemThis topical collection will explore how complex neuroimmune interactions promote healthy and pathological ageing. We seek reviews, viewpoints, commentaries, or original research articles exploring the role of stress, mood disorders, and sensory systems during normal and premature immunosenescence. Over the last few decades, increasing evidence is implicating a role for the immune system in brain physiology and behaviour. Therefore, we also welcome articles discussing the role of immune cells and cytokines for the ageing brain, as well as the role of inflammation in neuromuscular disorders associated with senescence. In addition, we seek articles exploring the role of immunosenescence in age-related pathologies of the nervous system, including neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders (e.g., AD, PD and MS), as well as the role of vascular disease in neurodegeneration. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also seek articles discussing post-infectious degeneration in older adults.

Topical Collection: Immune response to Influenza virus and vaccine in old adults

New Content ItemSeasonal influenza is a common respiratory infection that causes significant health burden worldwide, particularly in older adults. Studies of altered immune functions with aging in human and animal model systems have identified underlying mechanisms and offer potential therapeutic insights. Vaccination is an effective tool to reduce and even prevent severe infection and its complications. Recent improvements in vaccine design enhance vaccine efficacy for at-risk older adults. Understanding innate, humoral and cellular conditions of the host immune system that contribute to severe infection and to age-associated alterations in vaccine response represent important steps in reducing the disease burden of influenza for the growing older adult population.

Announcing the launch of In Review

Immunity & Ageing, in partnership with Research Square, is now offering In Review. Authors choosing this free optional service will be able to:

  • Share their work with fellow researchers to read, comment on, and cite even before publication
  • Showcase their work to funders and others with a citable DOI while it is still under review
  • Track their manuscript - including seeing when reviewers are invited, and when reports are received 



Topical collection
Mice, women and men: species and sex differences in the role of the thymus in immunosenescence
Donald Palmer


Topical collection
Immunobiology of Human Space Exploration
Brian E. Crucian and Richard J. Simpson

Topical collection
Immunobiology of the mucosal system
Anshu Agrawal

Topical collection
Comparative Immunosenescence
Graham Pawelec

Topical collection
Neuroimmunology and Ageing
Moisés E. Bauer and Roberto Paganelli

Topical collection
Immune response to Influenza virus and vaccine in old adults
Sean X. Leng and Albert Shaw


Topical collection
Towards Biomarkers of Human Immunosenescense
Ruth Montgomery and Alan Cohen


Topical collection
Immunity, Metabolism and Aging
Daniela Frasca and Andrea Cossarizza


Topical collection
Nutrigerontology: a key for achieving successful ageing and longevity
Collection published: April/ May 2016


Cross journal collection
Day of Immunology 2015
Collection published: 28 April 2015


Topical collection
Positive biology: the centenarian lesson
Immunity & Ageing
Collection published: 23 April 2012

Aims and scope

The increasing realization that immune ageing and organismal ageing are intimately inter-related puts the immune system at centre-stage in our efforts to understand and manipulate the ageing process.

Immunity & Ageing provides a specific conduit for dissemination of new knowledge in this increasingly important arena. Published since 2004, the journal is a specialist open access journal dedicated to promulgating information on the impact of ageing on immune systems, the influence of aged immune systems on organismal well-being and longevity, age-associated diseases which have at least partly an immune etiology, and potential immune interventions to increase health span.

Immunity & Ageing welcomes submissions dealing with any aspect of ageing in human and model organisms that relates to immune function.  Papers dealing with any aspect of ageing that does not include a substantial immunological element will not be considered.

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About the Editors

Graham Pawelec

Graham Pawelec is Professor of Experimental Immunology at the University of Tübingen, Germany, where he led the Tübingen Ageing and Tumour Immunology (TATI) group from 1999 to 2017. He is currently affiliated with the Health Sciences North Research Institute of Canada, Sudbury, ON, and is a Visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent University, King´s College London, and Manchester University, UK. His research interests remain centered on immunogerontology in the context of cancer immunology and immunotherapy, and vaccination.

Nan-ping Weng

Nan-ping Weng is tenured senior investigator, Chief of Lymphocyte Differentiation Section, Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology at the National Insitute on Aging (NIA), NIH. He joined the Laboratory of Immunology at the NIA as a tenure-track investigator in 1997 and has been tenured senior investigator since 2006. His laboratory focuses on the understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms of T cell differentiation and age-associated decline of T cell functions.

Founding Editor

Professor Calogero Caruso MD Professor of General Pathology and Director of Palermo University Medical School “Ippocrate”

Whether your interests are immunological aspects of ageing, age-related diseases and longevity, this journal can serve as an appropriate venue.

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