Background Immunosenescence is a complex process characterized by an age-related remodelling of immune system. The prominent effects of the immunosenescence process is the thymic involution and, consequently, the decreased numbers and functions of T cells. Since thymic involution results in a collapse of the T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire, a reliable biomarker of its activity is represented by the quantification of signal joint T-cell receptor rearrangement excision circles (sjTRECs) levels. Although it is reasonable to think that thymic function could play a crucial role on elderly survival, only a few studies investigated the relationship between an accurate measurement of human thymic function and survival at old ages.Methods and findings By quantifying the amount sjTRECs by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the decrease in thymic output in 241 nursing home residents from Calabria (Southern Italy) was evaluated to investigate the relationship between thymic function and survival at old ages. We found that low sjTREC levels were associated with a significant increased risk of mortality at older ages. Nursing home residents with lower sjTREC exhibit a near 2-fold increase in mortality risk compared to those with sjTREC levels in a normal range.Conclusion Thymic function failure is an independent predictor of mortality among elderly nursing home residents. sjTREC represents a biomarker of effective ageing as its blood levels could anticipate individuals at high risk of negative health outcomes. The identification of these subjects is crucial to manage older people's immune function and resilience, such as, for instance, to plan more efficient vaccinal campaigns in older populations.
Paparazzo, Ersilia;Geracitano, Silvana;Lagani, Vincenzo;Bartolomeo, Denise;Aceto, Mirella Aurora;Passarino, Giuseppe;Montesanto, Alberto
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