Dr. Chris Wheeler: Age-related killer T cells in brain malignancy, degeneration, and development


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The Spring 2017 Biology Seminar Series continues with Dr. Chris Wheeler’s talk, "Age-related killer T cells in brain malignancy, degeneration, and development."

Abnormal expansion of memory (killer) T cells is among the earliest physiological manifestations of aging. While this is known to impair pathogen susceptibility in the elderly, its impact on non-infectious diseases is less clear. This is particularly true of age-related neurological disorders. Initially focusing on brain tumors, we identified special molecular properties of age-sensitive killer T cells related to patient survival and immunotherapy success. Remarkably, reduction of these cells in young animals unmasked pathology similar to autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity, depending on sex, revealing a probable neurodevelopmental role. By contrast, inducing age-related expansion of killer T cells altered their molecular and functional properties, and ultimately promoted neurodegeneration similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Further analysis of the molecular properties of killer T cells and their age-related changes should allow us to understand the emerging relationship of immunity, aging, and central nervous system integrity. It may also allow us to benefit patients of neurological disorders through direct immune manipulation.