Natural immunity and bone and muscle remodelling hormones in the elderly

Erminia Mariani, Giovanni Ravaglia, Alessandra Meneghetti, Andrea Tarozzi, Paola Forti, Fabiola Maioli, Federica Boschi, Andrea Facchini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increasing evidence has demonstrated that the immune system is closely integrated with two other physiological systems: endocrine and nervous. They communicate through circulating humoral factors such as cytokines, hormones and neurotransmitters. We undertook a cross-sectional analysis in a group of elderly subjects over 90 years to demonstrate that a functional relationship exists among the number and cytolytic activities of NK cells, bone and muscle remodelling hormones, anthropometric parameters and physical ability. Peripheral blood samples collected from 62, 90-106 years-old subjects underwent biochemical (bone and muscle remodelling hormone levels) and immunological determinations (Natural Killer cell distribution and activity), anthropometric and functional assessment. Significant associations were found among NK cell number and cytolytic activity and serum concentrations of vitamin D, anthropometric parameters, while functional independence in daily activity was only associated with NK cell number. In general a high level of physical ability was correlated with preserved body stores and vitamin D levels. In conclusion, our results stress the importance of nutritional evaluation in the clinical assessment of elderly people. The magnitude of the NK immune response, which constitutes the first line of defence against infected and neoplastic cells, is best preserved in oldest-old people with the best hormonal parameters and nutritional measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-292
Number of pages14
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - May 15 1998


  • Ageing
  • Anthropometric parameters
  • Bone and muscle remodelling hormones
  • NK cells
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Biochemistry
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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