Longitudinal studies are defining progressive alterations to the immune system associated with increased mortality in the very elderly. Many of these changes are exacerbated by or even caused by chronic T cell stimulation by persistent antigen, particularly from Cytomegalovirus. The composition of T cell subsets, their functional integrity and representation in the repertoire are all markedly influenced by age and by CMV. How these findings relate to epidemiological, functional, genetic, genomic and proteomic studies of human T cell immunosenescence was the subject of intense debate at an international conference held just before Christmas 2005 in the Black Forest.
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