Systems biology-driven approach to unravel and revert the mechanisms responsible for poor immune responses in the elderly
Our society gets older, people live longer. The price we pay: infectious diseases can easier overcome the immune system. Like all organs, the immune system does not function flawlessly in old age. A collaboration of university and non-university research institutes and two companies under coordination of the HZI is investigating why our immune defense is getting weaker when we become old. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the context of the Gerontosys2 program.
The strategic objective of the GERONTOSHIELD project is to draw on a Systems Biology-driven approach to understand the molecular processes affected during immunosenescence to derive strategies to overcome them in order to establish immune interventions tailored for the elderly.
Murine and human systems will be exploited to reverse engineer the molecular processes affected during immunosenescence. The in vitro studies will allow assessing if similar processes take place in murine and human cells, which is critical for the implementation. The emerging data will assist in developing mathematical models defining the involved processes, which will enable the generation of hypotheses on the underlying mechanisms. This will be an iterative process intertwining modeling and experimentation, in which the models will be progressively fine-tuned. Furthermore, the establishment of a holistic phenomenological in silico model for influenza infection and in vivo immunization studies using flu antigens will allow understanding the dynamics of responses to infection and vaccination in the context of immunosenescence, thereby paving the road for the translation of this knowledge and tools into improved medical treatments that are tailored for the elderly.