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System Failures

In 1986 a man in Japan, Shirechiyo Izumi, reached 120 years, 237 days. He died after developing pneumonia. So in the end his immune system failed as one of the many bacteria or viruses that cause pneumonia broke through the elaborate, natural defenses that protect humans from infection. Scientists have long known that these defenses decline with age. Now some of the underlying mechanisms are coming to light.
A multiplicity of cells, substances, and organs make up the immune system. The thymus, spleen, tonsils, bone marrow, and lymphatic system, for example, produce, store, and transport a host of cells and substances: B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, antibodies, interleukins, and interferon, to name a few. Several are of special interest to gerontologists. These include the white blood cells or lymphocytes, which fight invading bacteria and other foreign cells.



Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

The NIA supports the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), America's longest-running scientific study of human aging, begun in 1958. BLSA scientists are learning what happens as people age and how to sort out changes due to aging from those due to disease or other causes. More than 1,200 men and women are study volunteers. They range in age from their 20s to their 90s. Visit this site and tap into their vast resources.

(Above)Scanning electron micrograph of human macrophage ingesting Streptococcus pyogenes. The spherical cell riding piggy-back on the macrophage is a LYMPHOCYTE, an important component in the immune response to infection. Read about these cells' close association in Antibody Production.


Visit James Sullivan's amazing site with its beautiful cell illustrations.