~ Vitamin E Enhances Immune Cells


Vitamin E Enhances Immune Cells In Old Mice

A study published in the October 1 2001 Journal of Immunology (http://www.jimmunol.org/) showed "for the first time that supplemental vitamin E has direct immunoenhancing effect on naive T cells from old mice." T cells are immune cells whose proliferation and function decline with age, partly due to increased production of PGE2 by macrophages which suppresses them. Interluekin-2, made by T-helper cells when they are stimulated by an infection, also declines with age. There is a shift with aging toward greater proportions of memory T cells and fewer naive T cells that have not encountered antigens. Naive T cells also exhibit a decline in function with aging. Some changes in T cell function that are seen in aging may be due to free radical damage. Because the antioxidant vitamin E is known to increase T Cell function in aged humans and animals, researchers from Tufts University in Boston sought to determine if its T cell enhancing mechanism is other than that of its previously demonstrated ability to reduce PGE2.

Researchers purified T cells obtained from the spleens of young and old healthy male mice and incubated them in a solution containing alpha-tocopherol in a concentration representing average plasma alpha-tocopherol levels of humans taking 200 international units of vitamin E per day. Control T cells from young mice and old mice were incubated in a solution that did not contain vitamin E. An examination of vitamin E uptake in old and young cells showed no difference between the two groups.

The proliferative capacity of T cells from old mice was found to be lower than that of young animals. Vitamin E increased the proliferative capacity of the T cells of old mice, while those from young mice did not show an increase. No PGE2 could be stimulated in the samples collected, showing that vitamin E's effect on T cell proliferation did not occur though reduction of PGE2. After forty-eight hours, interleukin-2 secretion was significantly lower in old mice compared to young mice but in the vitamin-E supplemented cells of old mice, levels were restored to that of young cells. This finding was not due to the increase in proliferative capacity observed in the vitamin E enhanced cells.

When naive T cells were examined, vitamin E was found to increase their ability in old mice to progress through cell division cycles, however the effect was not observed for memory T cells. The researchers concluded that it is the naive T cells that experience the greatest age-related decline in interleukin-2 production, and that vitamin E acts specifically on these cells. They summarize that the increased free radical burden associated with aging leads to damage resulting in an age-associated decline in T cell response which can be partially reversed in vitro by dietary antioxidant supplementation. This study revealed that vitamin E has a direct effect on T cells in addition to its inhibition of PGE production.

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