This lung disease can cause premature aging of the immune system

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Scientists from the University of São Paulo found that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) leads to premature senescence (age-related impairment) of the immune system.

The finding may help explain why COPD patients respond poorly to vaccines and are more susceptible to infectious processes.

The research is published in the journal Immunity & Ageing and was conducted by Juliana Ruiz Fernandes et al.

COPD is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by progressive airflow obstruction and is commonly induced by cigarette smoke and atmospheric pollution.

It affects some 64 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the study, the team tested 92 individuals who were divided into four groups: COPD patients (21), smokers without evidence of lung disease (22), healthy older subjects (29), and young adults (20).

The researchers found that the COPD patients showed a number of changes linked to immunosenescence, especially a reduction in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, which are key elements of the immune system.

Immunosenescence is defined as a decline in the immune system function during aging.

Analysis of blood samples from the COPD patients in the study showed faster senescence of T cells than in healthy subjects of the same age.

The results for the group of smokers suggested that moderate to intense smoking did not accelerate immunosenescence when compared with the results for healthy adults.

The team says that immune system development was disrupted in COPD patients.

The researchers are now studying, in a different group of volunteers, how B cells (the immune cells that produce antibodies) respond in COPD patients, and how these patients are responding to COVID-19 vaccines.

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