The world population is undergoing a rapid expansion of older adults. Aging is associated with numerous changes that affect all organs and systems, including every component of the immune system. Immunosenescence is a multifaceted process characterized by poor response to vaccine and higher incidence of bacterial and viral infections, cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Immunosenescence has been associated with chronic low-grade inflammation referred to as inflammaging, whose underlying mechanisms remain incompletely elucidated, including age-related changes affecting components of the innate and adaptive immune system. T follicular helper (TFH) cells, present in lymphoid organs and in peripheral blood, are specialized in providing cognate help to B cells and are required for the production of immunoglobulins. Several subsets of TFH cells have been identified in humans and mice and modifications in TFH cell phenotype and function progressively occur with age. Dysfunctional TFH cells play a role in cancer, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases, all conditions particularly prevalent in elderly subjects. A specialized population of Treg cells, named T follicular regulatory (TFR) cells, present in lymphoid organs and in peripheral blood, exerts opposing roles to TFH cells in regulating immunity. Indeed, changes in TFH/TFR cell ratio constitute a relevant feature of aging. Herein we discuss the cellular and molecular changes in both TFH cells and TFR cells that occur in aging and recent findings suggesting that TFH cells and/or their subsets could be involved in atherosclerosis, cancer, and autoimmunity.
- T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer
- T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory