Contributions of Age-Related Thymic Involution to Immunosenescence and Inflammaging

Rachel Thomas, Weikan Wang, Dong Ming Su

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Immune system aging is characterized by the paradox of immunosenescence (insufficiency) and inflammaging (over-reaction), which incorporate two sides of the same coin, resulting in immune disorder. Immunosenescence refers to disruption in the structural architecture of immune organs and dysfunction in immune responses, resulting from both aged innate and adaptive immunity. Inflammaging, described as a chronic, sterile, systemic inflammatory condition associated with advanced age, is mainly attributed to somatic cellular senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) and age-related autoimmune predisposition. However, the inability to reduce senescent somatic cells (SSCs), because of immunosenescence, exacerbates inflammaging. Age-related adaptive immune system deviations, particularly altered T cell function, are derived from age-related thymic atrophy or involution, a hallmark of thymic aging. Recently, there have been major developments in understanding how age-related thymic involution contributes to inflammaging and immunosenescence at the cellular and molecular levels, including genetic and epigenetic regulation, as well as developments of many potential rejuvenation strategies. Herein, we discuss the research progress uncovering how age-related thymic involution contributes to immunosenescence and inflammaging, as well as their intersection. We also describe how T cell adaptive immunity mediates inflammaging and plays a crucial role in the progression of age-related neurological and cardiovascular diseases, as well as cancer. We then briefly outline the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of age-related thymic involution, and finally summarize potential rejuvenation strategies to restore aged thymic function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalImmunity and Ageing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2020


  • Age-related thymic involution
  • Central tolerance
  • Immunosenescence and inflammaging
  • Negative selection and regulatory T (Treg) cell generation
  • Rejuvenation
  • Thymic aging


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