Glucocorticoids and Dehydroepiandrosterone: A Role in Immunosenescence?
This chapter summarizes current evidence suggesting that immunosenescence may be influenced by both psychological stress and stress hormones. The age-related immunological changes are also similarly found during chronic stress, bipolar disease, or chronic glucocorticoid exposure. It follows that endogenous glucocorticoids (cortisol) could be associated to immunosenescence. Previous studies have shown that healthy older adults are emotionally distressed in parallel to increased cortisol/dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) ratio. Furthermore, chronic stressed older adults may be particularly at risk of stress-related pathology because of further alterations in glucocorticoid-immune signaling. Although DHEA and its metabolites have been described with immune-enhancing properties, their potential use as hormonal boosters of immunity should be interpreted with caution. The psychoneuroendocrine hypothesis of immunosenescence is presented in which the age-related increase in the cortisol/DHEA ratio is the major determinant of immunological changes observed during aging. Finally, preliminary evidence indicated that stress-management interventions in older adults are capable of attenuating some important features of immunosenescence.
KeywordsAging Immunosenescence Glucocorticoids Lymphocytes
This study was supported by grants from CNPq and FAPERGS.
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