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date: 23 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Aging of the immune system is responsible for increased severity of infections, reduced vaccine responsiveness, and higher cancer incidence in the elderly. These outcomes can be attributed to several types of stress, including latent viral infections, oxidative stress and psychological stress. The major infectious stressors are herpes viruses, which are usually acquired early in life, persist for many decades and drive certain T cells to replicative senescence, a terminal state characterized by reduced immune function, shortened telomeres, and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Chronic psychological and oxidative stress are also associated with shortened telomeres and reduced immune function. Given the wide range of deleterious effects associated with telomere shortening and the resultant immune dysfunction and inflammation, research aimed at retarding the process of replicative senescence—for example, by enhancing telomerase in T cells or by life-style and stress-reduction techniques—are promising approaches for enhancing healthspan in older persons.

Keywords: stress, telomere, telomerase, T cells, immune, human, latent infection, aging, HIV/AIDS

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