The elderly are often the hardest hit by seasonal viruses such as the flu due to the weakening of their immune system and its lessened ability to process the flu vaccine.
However, a clinical trial from Longeveron LLC seeks to reverse this trend by integrating a stem cell therapy with the flu vaccine to improve the immune response of elderly patients, thus making the vaccine more effective.
The Miami-based biomedical company was recently awarded a $750,000 USD grant from Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund to aid the trial, which will be conducted alongside a research team at Johns Hopkins University.
HOW DOES THE TREATMENT WORK?
The clinical trial will seek to use mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) taken from the bone marrow of stem cell donors to improve immune function in elderly patients before they receive the flu vaccine ahead of next year’s flu season.
The hope is that the MSCs’ ability to “turn back the clock” on the immune system’s aging and ability to reduce inflammation will make trial participants less susceptible to the flu and better able to fight off its symptoms.
“Immune functional decline, or immunosenescence, is a hallmark feature of aging. Elder patients, particularly those who are frail, are at high risk for influenza and its complications.” John Hopkins associate professor Sean Leng said in a press release. “Data from our previous study indicate that aging frailty is associated with poor antibody response to, and clinical protection from, vaccination with standard dose trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine. While newer influenza vaccines have become available in recent years, MSCs represent a novel immunization strategy that addresses host factor to improve vaccine-induced immune protection against this common and deadly infection in aging frailty.”
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The older you get, catching the flu becomes less of a minor convenience and much more of a serious health threat, with older adults oftentimes needing hospitalization after catching it. According to Longeveron’s co-founder and chief science officer, that situation has only become more common in recent years.
“Last year’s flu season was one of the worst and deadliest in recent years, and seniors are typically the most vulnerable,” he said in a press release.
“Generally, people over 65 have the highest rate of hospitalization for flu. Last year, boomers were affected, too, with people aged 50 to 64 hospitalized at three times the rate of previous seasons, according to CDC data. Regenerative stem cell therapies hold great promise to bolster the immune systems of older people for greater resistance to flu.”
Should this clinical trial be successful, we could see stem cell therapy being integrated into a wider array of vaccines and medical research relating to seniors and immune function, thus keeping people healthier for longer.
If you suffer from chronic joint and muscle pain, RegenerVate’s stem cell therapies can reverse the effects of aging on your tendons and give you full use of your arms and legs again.