Life Extension Magazine®

Healthy cell being affected by immune senescence

When Immune Function “Falls Off a Cliff”

Significant dollars are being invested to develop technologies to turn back “on” youthful immune function. Yet many of us can’t wait for bureaucratic delays while our immune systems “fall off a cliff.” This article will explain what Life Extension® is doing to help restore immune competence in aging humans today, including suppressing the deadly interleukin-6 cytokine.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: William Faloon.

William Faloon
William Faloon

A startling change occurs around age 65 that decimates our ability to combat infections and malignancies.

This catastrophic event decreases naïve T cells needed to ward off new bacteria, viruses, and cancers. The chart on this page shows how production of these vital immune cells sharply declines as we age.

At the same time naïve T cells are lost, we accumulate senile memory T cells that emit pro-inflammatory signals that wreak havoc in every organ system.1

One of the most deadly of these inflammatory “signals” is a cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6).2

Higher IL-6 levels are associated with a 2-fold greater risk of death.3 Higher levels are also involved with multiple degenerative processes including frailty that so many elderly suffer.4-7 A common trait of healthy centenarians is that they have unusually low levels of IL-6.8

People associate immune senescence with weakened immune function. It turns out that impaired immunity is only half the problem. Spiraling levels of IL-6 that attack our healthy tissues are another component of immune senescence that must be addressed.9

When Immune Function Falls Off a Cliff  

The encouraging news is that significant dollars are being invested to develop technologies to turn back “on” youthful immune function.10 These immune-restoration therapies will likely add decades to our healthy life spans.

The problem is that many of us can’t wait for bureaucratic delays while our immune systems fall off a cliff. This article will explain what Life Extension® is doing to accelerate restoration of immune competence in aging humans today, including suppressing deadly interleukin-6 levels.

Immune senescence is a leading cause of disability and death in aging humans.11

By way of example, deaths from pneumonia are rare in youth, but spiral upwards as humans mature.12 If you read obituaries (as I do), the number of once-vigorous individuals who perish from opportunistic illnesses caused by immune senescence is startling.

One year ago, Life Extension Magazine® published in-depth reports about underlying causes of immune senescence and what stop-gap measures people should initiate to reverse this deadly trend.13-15

In people over age 65, the top 10 causes of death include influenza, pneumonia, and sepsis.16 Immune senescence is a major cause of all these maladies.12,17-22

Cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and heart attack are common diseases of aging.16 These illnesses are all related to immune senescence.

At this time of year, we often hear the term “immune health” as people seek to protect against viral infections. The public does not yet understand what causes our immune system to fail as we age.

More Naïve T Cells Urgently Needed

Immune imbalance occurs when our aging immune system fails to protect against new cancers/infections, and instead generates inflammatory reactions (including increased IL-6) that attack every cell in our body.

A “naïve immune cell is one that has not yet been activated.23 Since it is “naïve” (not yet exposed to an antigen), naïve immune cells are primed to effectively respond to new infectious agents and malignancies.

Once exposed, naïve immune cells become memory cells or plasma cells specific to the original antigen. As our internal reservoir of naïve immune cells is decreased, we have less ability to respond to new infections/malignancies.23

A deficit of naïve immune cells combined with overaccumulation of exhausted memory cells decreases the efficacy (antibody response) of vaccinations.24

Exhausted memory T cells are associated with increased risks of coronary heart disease, impaired vascular function, and endothelial dysfunction, along with systemic inflammation.25-30

If we are to guard against the ravages of immune senescence, we need to increase our numbers of naïve cells (“virgin” immune cells), while reducing numbers of senile memory cells.

Protecting against Immune Senescence Today

Most Life Extension® customers take nutrients that exert beneficial effects on immune activity.

Zinc and DHEA partially restore thymus function, which is vital to transforming bone marrow-derived immune cells into activated T cells.31-35 DHEA and fish oil help suppress deadly interleukin-6.36-41

A major advance announced last year in combatting immune senescence is an herb called Cistanche. This medicinal plant has been used extensively in China to treat the “ailments of aging.”42

Supplementation with Cistanche has been shown to increase naïve T cells and natural killer (NK) cells while decreasing memory T cells and pro-inflammatory interleukin-6.43 One of the characteristics of people who live over 100 years is low levels of interleukin-6.8

A prime cause of the severe immune dysfunction suffered by the elderly is a marked decrease in naïve T cells44-46 and functional natural killer cells,47-49 with a concomitant increase in memory T cells.50,51

Cistanche counteracts these pathological trends that characterize immune senescence.43


We conclude that CHF (chronic heart failure) patients show a higher degree of immunosenescence than age-matched healthy controls. T-lymphocyte differentiation and IL-6 levels are increased in patients with an advanced clinical status and may contribute to disease impairment through a compromised adaptive immune response due to accelerated aging of their immune system.”

Publication: International Journal of Cardiology – July 1, 2014

Article title: Immunosenescence and inflammation characterize chronic heart failure patients with more advanced disease.

How Cistanche Boosts T Cell Production and Healthy Longevity

Cistanche helps restore progenitors of peripheral naïve T cells, which explains the increase seen in these vital immune cells in response to Cistanche.43

Animals supplemented with Cistanche have increased life spans, which would be expected by a compound that counteracts immune senescence.43

Cistanche is one of the most popular Chinese herbal medicines and is listed in the Chinese herbal pharmacopeias as having “anti-aging” properties.

One reason Chinese physicians see such impressive therapeutic results is that Cistanche restores one of the most prominent bone marrow biomarkers of immune cell formation called stem cell antigen-1.43

How Cistanche Boosts T Cell Production and Healthy Longevity  

Senile bone marrow loses its ability to produce fresh naïve immune cells, which are launched into the bloodstream to differentiate into mature naïve T and natural killer cells. Bone marrow stem cell antigen-1 represents the body’s main source of naïve T cells in the blood.43 Cistanche appears to have a rejuvenating effect on the bone marrow, something that is generally only available through expensive recombinant drugs.52-54

The beneficial impact of Cistanche was demonstrated in an open-label pilot trial of elderly people. This study combined a low-dose of Cistanche (100 mg) with zinc, vitamin E, vitamin B6, fucoidan, and coenzyme Q10. Not only were markers of immune senescence reversed, but the test subjects reported improvements in quality of life, such as not “feeling tired all the time.” This makes sense in light of the multiple adverse effects immune senescence inflicts on the body, which includes increased levels of frailty.55,56

There are other factors that weaken immune function in the elderly that Cistanche has been shown to counteract. These will be described in depth in the article beginning on page 34 of this month’s issue.

Cistanche represents an important advance in our ability to restore vital components of our aging immune systems. Its low cost makes it readily affordable.

Suppressing Deadly Impact of IL-6

One way of describing “aging” is that beneficial factors (such as naïve T cell production) decrease while detrimental ones (like interleukin-6) increase.

IL-6 levels are especially high in patients with autoimmune conditions where an out-of-control immune system attacks one’s own tissues. High serum IL-6, as seen in rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, is regarded as a reliable biomarker of high-grade inflammation.57-59

When it comes to “normal” aging, elevated IL-6 contributes to the chronic destruction of our bone, heart valves, neurons, and other tissues, while the DNA damage it inflicts accelerates aging processes and malignant transformation of healthy cells.60-66

Life Extension® has published a number of articles over the past several decades about the critical need for aging humans to suppress chronic inflammatory inducers like interleukin-6.

I am pleased to announce that a potent new weapon to reduce IL-6 has been added to an immune-restoration formula that many of our customers take daily. The cost of this novel tea extract is so low that the price of this blend of beneficial immune nutrients remains the same as last year.

When this tea extract was given by itself to a group of 90 patients (30-65 years) with metabolic syndrome, the following reductions in inflammatory markers were observed:67

  • C-reactive protein (CRP) was reduced by 26%
  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF-a) was reduced by 23%
  • Interleukin-6 (IL-6) was reduced by 21%

In addition to suppressing IL-6 and other inflammatory factors, this tea extract was shown to favorably alter genes (such as mutant p53) involved in tumor cell growth.68

Making Major Strides…

Making Major Strides  

We are rapidly entering a new paradigm in counteracting age-related disease.

Scientific studies document how certain nutrients that Life Extension® supporters have taken for decades (like DHEA and zinc) help protect against immune decline, while guarding against chronic inflammatory factors.70-75

Consumers now have access to an arsenal of novel compounds to counteract the underlying factors that characterize immune senescence.

An impressive array of clinical research is being investigated to induce systemic age reversal in elderly humans by utilizing bone marrow-mobilized factors from young blood donors.76

Your purchases of these nutrient formulas from Life Extension® help to fund avant-garde research at prestigious medical facilities aimed at gaining control over pathological aging processes.

Obtain Latest Formulas at Year’s Lowest Prices

This is the time of year when we discount prices on every one of our advanced nutritional formulas. Longtime supporters know to take advantage of this once-a-year Super Sale to stock up on their favorite supplement formulas.

What should comfort supporters more than anything else are the three novel methods to counteract aging we have introduced over the past 12 months.

One involves activating a cellular enzyme (AMPK) that declines with aging and is responsible for myriad of age-related disorders.

The second (introduced three weeks ago) suppresses an enzyme (MAO-B) that accelerates brain aging and causes maturing people to lose their sense of well-being.

The third is an enhancement to an immune-protection formula that suppresses deadly inflammatory factors such as IL-6, TNF-a, and C-reactive protein.

Inflammatory Markers Predict Human Mortality
Startling Numbers Of Excess Cancers

A study of community-dwelling people over age 80 was done to investigate whether interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) levels predict all-cause mortality.

Baseline levels of these inflammatory markers were taken and the subjects followed up for a period of four years.

After adjusting for potential confounders, those with high levels of IL-6 were 2.18 times more likely to die, while study subjects with high CRP were 2.58 times more likely to die.

While TNF-a by itself did not increase mortality rates, those with all three inflammatory markers above the median had the highest mortality risk during the four-year study period. The doctors who conducted this study concluded:

Low levels of inflammatory markers are associated with better survival in elderly, independently of age and other clinical and functional variables. 69

Our Commitment to Your Health

No organization is more dedicated to combatting disease, senescence, and premature mortality than Life Extension®. Your support via supplement purchases enables us to contribute to scientists involved in unprecedented biomedical research endeavors.

To order nutrients you need today at Super Sale prices, call 1-800-544-4440.

Editor’s Note:

Science continues to evolve, and new research is published daily. As such, we have a more recent article on this topic: When Your Immune Function Falls.

For longer life,

For Longer Life

William Faloon


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