World’s oldest people may have supercharged immune cells

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Bernice Madigan was the world’s fifth-oldest living person until her death at age 115 in January 2015. (Image: © Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)


(Stephanie Pappas/ Live Science) — The secret to living past 110 may be an increase in killer cells in the bloodstream.

New research finds that “supercentenarians,” or people who make it to 110 years of age or older, have higher-than-typical concentrations of a particularly rare type of T helper cell in their blood. These immune cells might protect the oldest of the old against viruses and tumors, leaving them in remarkably fine health throughout their long life spans.

“The key will be to understand what is [the cells’] their natural target, which may help to reveal what is needed for a healthy, long life,” study co-authors Kosuke Hashimoto, Nobuyoshi Hirose and Piero Carninci wrote in a joint email to Live Science.

Carninci and Hashimoto are both researchers at the Riken Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Japan, while Hirose is a scientist at the Centre for Supercentenarian Medical Research of the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo. They and their colleagues wanted to analyze the immune cells of supercentenarians because it had never been done before. (…)

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