Models of Immune Function in Aging

Christopher A. Jolly and Zhun Xu

The most prevalent rodent models used in aging research are relatively healthy long-lived rats and mice and shortlived mice. The short-lived mice typically spontaneously develop a particular disease or are genetically altered. This review focuses on the most prevalent disease model, the autoimmune-prone mouse, to study the impact of diet on aging. The benefit of these mice is that their life span is half that of the long-lived strains, allowing for data to be generated faster. Specifically, evidence showing the beneficial effects of feeding calorie restriction, omega-3 fatty acids, and combining calorie restriction with omega-3 fatty acid feeding is discussed. Overall, the published data support the observation that the combination of calorie restriction and omega-3 fatty acid feeding is the most beneficial at delaying the onset of autoimmune disease in mice. In order to properly extrapolate this data to humans, the differences in TandB cell immunology between humans and rodents are examined. The most common effect of aging seen in both humans and rodents is thymic involution and reduced peripheral T cell proliferation ex vivo. However, significant differences do exist between humans and rodents in lymphocyte development and plasma membrane receptor expression. Finally, the potential use of these autoimmune-prone mice as a model of chronic inflammation to study the impact of diet on heart disease is discussed.

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