As is the case with the rest of the body, the immune system is weakened with age, a fact reflected by a significant increase in illness among the elderly, and a dramatic decrease in their ability to respond to vaccination. The B lymphocytes are major cellular components in the function of the immune system and are responsible for the production of antibodies. According to Prof. Melamed, many studies have shown the B cell population undergoes dramatic changes with age as a result of a decline in the body’s ability to produce new B cells and a selection process that leads to an accumulation of old B cells with a limited and reduced response capability.
Using old mice, the Technion researchers showed that active removal of the B cells changes the cellular homeostasis in the body and generates conditions of chronic deficiency of these cells. To overcome this deficiency, the body re-activates the bone marrow, forcing it to produce B cells again at a rate not different than that which exists in young mice. The researchers found that the newly generated B cells replaced the old cells that were removed, and led to an improvement of up to 400% in the ability of the treated mice to respond to vaccinations.
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