Scientists have found that a combination treatment safely enhances the ability of the immune system to fight infections in the elderly.
The results from the phase 2a clinical trial suggest that the treatment could lay the groundwork for therapies that decrease the incidence and health burden of infections such as influenza and pneumonia in elderly individuals, whose immune systems are less robust compared to younger individuals.
Infections represent a leading cause of death among those over 65 years of age, a fact that has pushed researchers to investigate potential avenues for restoring the immune system’s ability to recognize and neutralize threats.
Previous research has demonstrated that inhibiting a protein complex named TORC1 extended lifespan and mitigated immune system decline in old mice. Building on this discovery, Joan Mannick and colleagues designed a clinical trial to investigate whether inhibiting TORC1 could preserve immune function in the elderly.
They enrolled 264 healthy volunteers over the age of 65 and divided them into four groups. Three groups received different doses of either RAD001 or BEZ235, two TORC1 inhibitors, for six weeks, and one group received low doses of both compounds.
The authors found that the group receiving both inhibitors had a lower incidence of all infections for a year (1.49 infections per person) after the treatment was started compared to a group that received a placebo (2.41 infections per person).
Furthermore, the treated subjects demonstrated an improved immune response towards a seasonal influenza vaccine that was administered two weeks after treatment ceased.
Mannick et al. say that future studies should further assess how long the therapy’s beneficial effects last, as well as determine the mechanisms responsible for the lower infection rates.