Immune Aging and Chronic Infections

T cells are immune cells important for the defence against viruses. The on-going exposure to cytomegalovirus impairs their function. 
In the picture: Two T cells (red) interacting with a dendritic…

“Back then, I wasn’t ill so often”: With advancing age not only the skin loses its elasticity – many organs lose their functions. So does the immune system: Defense cells do not react promptly anymore, and immunological memory is not established. As a result, we are poorly protected by vaccines and more susceptible to infections. While the mechanisms of immune aging remain unknown, it is speculated that chronic viral infections play a crucial role in this age-related loss of immune functions. Read more about how pathogens may have an impact on the real age of our immune system.

Selected Publications

  • Dekhtiarenko,I.; Jarvis,M.A.; Ruzsics,Z.; Cicin-Sain,Luka; (2013). The context of gene expression defines the immunodominance hierarchy of cytomegalovirus antigens. Journal of Immunology: 190 7, 3399-340900221767 WEBURLS
  • Ebermann,L.; Ruzsics,Z.; Guzmán,Carlos A.; Van,Rooijen N.; Casalegno-Garduno,R.; Koszinowski,U.; Cicin-Sain,Luka; (2012). Block of death-receptor apoptosis protects mouse cytomegalovirus from macrophages and is a determinant of virulence in immunodeficient host. PLoS Pathogens: 8 12, e1003062 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003062 HZI repository PubMed
  • Cicin-Sain,Luka; Brien,J.D.; Uhrlaub,J.L.; Drabig,A.; Marandu,T.F.; Nikolich-Zugich,J.; (2012). Cytomegalovirus infection impairs immune responses and accentuates T-cell pool changes observed in mice with aging. PLoS Pathogens: 8 8, e1002849 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002849 HZI repository PubMed
  • Cicin-Sain,Luka*; Sylwester,A.W.; Hagen,S.I.; Siess,D.C.; Currier,N.; Legasse,A.W.; Fischer,M.B.; Koudelka,C.W.; Axthelm,M.K.; Nikolich-Zugich,J.; Picker,L.J.; (2011). Cytomegalovirus-specific T cell immunity is maintained in immunosenescent rhesus macaques. Journal of Immunology: 187 4, 1722-1732 PubMed
  • Cicin-Sain,Luka*; Smyk-Pearson,S.; Currier,N.; Byrd,L.; Koudelka,C.; Robinson,T.; Swarbrick,G.; Tackitt,S.; Legasse,A.; Fischer,M.; Nikolich-Zugich,D.; Park,B.; Hobbs,T.; Doane,C.J.; Mori,M.; Axthelm,M.K.; Lewinsohn,D.A.; Nikolich-Zugich,J.; (2010). Loss of naive T cells and repertoire constriction predict poor response to vaccination in old primates. Journal of Immunology: 184 12, 6739-6745 PubMed


  • Prof M.D., PhD Luka Cicin-Sain

    Luka Cicin-Sain

    Head of the Junior Research Group Immune Aging and Chronic Infections

    +49 531 6181-4616

    +49 531 6181-4699



Bachelor & Master
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  • KrankheitsErregend - Transplantation

Audio Podcast

  • Immunologischer Altersstarrsinn – Wie unser Immunsystem im Laufe des Lebens seine Anpassungsfähigkeit einbüßt
    Mit uns wird auch unser Immunsystem immer älter und schwächer. Unsere Lebenserwartung steigt, das Immunsystem altert aber deswegen nicht langsamer. Die Folge: Wir werden häufiger und schwerer krank. Welche Faktoren unser Immunsystem altern lassen, untersucht Luka Cicin-Sain am Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (HZI). Folgen Sie dem Forscher ins Zelllabor und hören Sie, wie er einen Weg sucht, um das Altern des Immunsystems aufzuhalten…