Study Shows Centenarians Have An Immunity That Leads To Longer Lives

What is the secret to a long and happy life? It's an age-old question that humans have pondered well throughout time. While increased susceptibility to illness is not considered abnormal as we age, new research shows that those who live to be 100 and beyond (termed centenarians) may possess a distinct genetic composition in their immune cells that makes them less prone to disease as they grow older (via HealthDay).

Researchers from a new 2023 study published in The Lancet looked at the single-cell makeup of immune cells in the blood of seven individuals with an average age of 106. They compared their genetic profile to the cells of seven alternate centenarians and more than 50 people between the ages of 20 and 89. They obtained this comparison data through public databases containing the patients' single-cell genetic sequencing.

The research findings revealed that the study participants' immune cell profiles did not appear to have undergone the typical transformations associated with aging. For many people, it's these natural changes that often lead to gradual immune system decline in older adulthood (via Medical News Today).

Centenarians displayed heightened immune resilience

"What we basically found is that centenarians manifest a history of exposure to natural environmental immunogens that made them more resilient and more resistant to potential harmful factors," co-researcher on the study Dr. Stefano Monti told HealthDay. Not only that, but the study team also identified the heightened expression of one particular gene associated with fighting off DNA damage as a factor in longevity.

While the research may potentially shed some light on one factor that may contribute to a prolonged lifespan, some experts state that there are too many confounding variables that contribute to longevity, therefore making it difficult to isolate causation. This can include family medical history, healthy lifestyle habits, and more.

Even so, other experts feel encouraged by the findings, stating how the information may help inform developments in future therapies to allow patients to enjoy many more years to come. "If we can determine what is creating this immune resilience for those who live over 100, that can lead to treatments that can help people live longer," senior director of the National Council on Aging's Center for Healthy Aging, Kathleen Cameron, told Medical News Today in response to the research findings.