[Source: NIAID] – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded nearly $9.7 million over five years to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), Japan, to study the effects of atomic bomb radiation and aging on the human immune system. For the first time, experts in both the United States and Japan will systematically analyze biological samples from the unique population of elderly Japanese atomic bomb survivors to better understand the health consequences of exposure to ionizing radiation on the natural aging process.
As people grow older, their immune systems also age, leading to a gradual decline in the body’s ability to fight infections, respond to vaccinations and prevent the development of cancer. The aging of the immune system, known as immunosenescence, is a major contributing factor to disease and death among the elderly. Radiation exposure appears to accelerate immunosenescence, although the molecular events that cause immunosenescence are not well understood.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2000 there were approximately 600 million people worldwide 60 years and older; WHO estimates that this number will jump to 1.2 billion by 2025 and 2 billion by 2050.