Have you heard the word "supercentenarian?" A supercentenarian is someone who has reached or surpassed 110 years of age. About one in 1,000 centenarians can achieve that age. But what are supercentenarian’s secret to long and healthy lives? Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Science (IMS) and Keio University School of Medicine in Japan may have just found that out!
The secret of supercentenarians
Previous studies found that supercentenarians were less likely to get infections and cancers than ordinary people during their whole life. So, scientists wonder if this is because they have a unique immune system.
In order to verify this guess, the research team looked at the circulating immune cells froma group of supercentenarians and a group of younger controls. They acquired a total of 41,208 cells from 7 supercentenarians (an average of 5,887 per subject) and 19,994 cells from 5 people (control group) aged in their fifties to eighties (an average of 3,999 per subject).
It turns out that the supercentenarians had a very high level of T cells that are cytotoxic. Cytotoxic cells are “toxic” cells that can kill other cells, including cancer cells and other damaged cells in the body.
In the supercentenarians, cytotoxic T cells can amount up to 80% of all T-cells, while in the control group, the percentage is just 10% or 20%.
Besides, the researchers noticed another unusual thing. Cytotoxic T cells are normally T-cells with CD8 markers. However, the high level of cytotoxic T cells found in the body of supercentenarians were T-cells with CD4 markers.
In other words, the supercentenarians had more cytotoxic T cells with CD4 markers than ordinary people.
The researchers have not yet understood the reason behind, but they suggested that the special combination of T-cells with CD8 markers and CD4 markers may contribute to longevity.
Scientists are now planning to further study of the supercentenarians, who can become a good model of healthy aging. If successful, we may find the key to longevity and have more time to enjoy our life.