Friend or foe: The dichotomous impact of T cells on neuro-de/ re-generation during aging

Brandon Coder, Weikan Wang, Liefeng Wang, Zhongdao Wu, Qichuan Zhuge, Dong Ming Su

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The interaction between T cells and the central nervous system (CNS) in homeostasis and injury has been recognized being both pathogenic (CD4+ T-helper 1 - Th1, Th17 and γδT) and ameliorative (Th2 and regulatory T cells - Tregs). However, in-depth studies aimed to elucidate the precise in the aged microenvironment and the dichotomous role of Tregs have just begun and many aspects remain unclear. This is due, not only to a mutual dependency and reciprocal causation of alterations and diseases between the nervous and T cell immune systems, but also to an inconsistent aging of the two systems, which dynamically changes with CNS injury/recovery and/ or aging process. Cellular immune system aging, particularly immunosenescence and T cell aging initiated by thymic involution - sources of chronic inflammation in the elderly (termed inflammaging), potentially induces an acceleration of brain aging and memory loss. In turn, aging of the brain via neuro-endocrine-immune network drives total body systemic aging, including that of the immune system. Therefore, immunotherapeutics including vaccination and "protective autoimmunity" provide promising means to rejuvenate neuro-inflammatory disorders and repair CNS acute injury and chronic neuro-degeneration. We review the current understanding and recent discoveries linking the aging immune system with CNS injury and neurodegeneration. Additionally, we discuss potential recovery and rejuvenation strategies, focusing on targeting the aging T cell immune system in an effort to alleviate acute brain injury and chronic neuro-degeneration during aging, via the "thymusinflammaging- neurodegeneration axis".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7116-7137
Number of pages22
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017


  • Aging
  • Immunotherapy
  • Neurodegeneration
  • T-cell immunity


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