On Thursday, January 24, 2019, the Institute on Aging (IOA) welcomed Bonnie B. Blomberg, PhD, Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, to discuss “Aging, Inflammation, and Immunity.”
Dr. Blomberg’s research focuses on B-lymphocytes, also known as B-cells — a type of blood cell that helps protect your body from infection — and what happens to the immune system in older humans and mice at a molecular and cellular level. Essentially, after studying a transcription factor called E47, which involved activating B-cells first in mice and then in humans and looking at immune response to the influenza vaccine, what Dr. Blomberg and her team found is that with increased age, immunity decreases and inflammation increases.
The study showed that people who were younger, and had an increased amount of E47 in their B-cells, had a better immune response to the influenza vaccine and those who were elderly had a much lower immune response.
Dr. Blomberg’s team also discovered that the amount of serum TNFalpha is inversely correlated with the ability to make a good vaccine response. They found that those with high levels of TNFalpha, especially the elderly, had a low response rate to the influenza vaccine, proving to be another marker that could be used to predict immune response.
Subsequently, the team looked at additional data and found that people who were obese — with a BMI above 30 — looked as if they were elderly in terms of immune response to the vaccine and this also correlated with their increased inflammation (TNFalpha).
“The bottom line, so far, is that we have discovered markers in B-cells that will be able to predict in mice and in humans whether a good or bad response will occur for the influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Blomberg. “The other point is that regardless of age, obesity in mice and in humans makes people respond as if they were elderly.”