Cytometric analysis of immunosenescence

Andrea Cossarizza, Claudio Ortolani, Daniela Monti, Claudio Franceschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have been studying the immune system of healthy centenarians for many years, and they provide the best example of successful aging. They are people who have escaped major age-related diseases and reached the extreme limit of human life in good clinical condition. In most cases, histories of centenarians reveal them to be free of cancer, dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cataracts, Moreover, in order to reach such an advanced age, they should be-equipped with well preserved and efficient immuno- and defense mechanisms, and optimal combinations of an appropriate lifestyle and genetic background. Using this approach, several paradoxes emerged as far as the immune system of centenarians is concerned, regarding: i) humoral immunity (increase in plasma immunoglobulins and nonorgan-specific autoantibodies, decrease in B cell number and lack of organ-specific autoantibodies); ii) cellular immunity (well preserved number of 'virgin' T cells, a relatively intact T cell repertoire despite a thymus involuting since puberty, increased number of cells with markers of NK activity); iii) decreased peripheral blood lymphocyte tendency to programmed cell death, associated with a well preserved mitochondria functionality and intracellular bcl-2 levels. An age-related increase in the levels of adhesion molecule present on lymphocyte plasma-membrane, accompanied by a complex reshaping of the cytokine network, must be aded to this scenario, All our data fit the hypothesis that a complex, unpredicted remodeling of the immune system occurs with age. In the present review it is underlined how flow cytometry has been used to study most of the above mentioned aspects of immunosenescence, and to establish new age-related reference values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-313
Number of pages17
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 1997


  • Aging
  • Centenarians
  • Flow cytometry
  • Immunosenescence
  • Longevity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Endocrinology


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