Natural Health News – Like fingerprints, our immune systems vary from person to person.
Although all inherit one set of genes that help respond to infections, recent studies have found that our history and the environment – and where and with whom we live – are responsible for 60% to 80% differences between individuals immune systems, while genetics is responsible for the rest.
In a study published in the journal Trends in Immunology three immunologists discuss the emerging science of what shapes our immune system and what it means for our understanding of immunity .
“As it took a while to decipher the genetic code, we are finally beginning to decipher the immune code, and we are away from the simplistic idea that there is only one type of immune system,” says lead author Adrian Liston, head of the Laboratory of translational Immunology VIB-KU Leuven in Belgium. “Diversity is not only scheduled in our genes – that arises of how our genes respond to the environment.”
What you need to know
“ New data suggest that our environments – in which we live and we live with – has more influence in shaping our immune response that our genetic make-up.
“ This conformation may explain why, for example, some people are more sensitive to specific viruses than others. What’s more, the researchers say, the aging process only serves to make our most unique individual immune systems.
“ Scientists say that we are getting closer to understanding the complex mechanism of the human immune system.
long term infections are responsible for most of the differences between individual immune systems. For example, when a person has herpes or shingles, the virus has more opportunities to interact with the immune system.
These interactions slowly change the cellular composition of your immune system and make it more sensitive to that specific virus, but it is also easier for other infections to slip past their defenses. People without these infections do not experience these cellular changes, and even with cold or fever occasionally, their immune systems are relatively stable over time.
is altered with age
The exception is when a person is elderly. Researchers have not determined exactly why age plays an important role in the manufacture of our most unique individual immune systems, but have shown that aging changes how our immune system responds to threats.
As we age, an organ called the thymus gradually stops producing T cells, which are made to help fight infection. No new T cells, older people are more likely to get sick and less likely to respond to vaccines.
Beyond T cells, aging also generally seems to change the way our immune systems react.
“Many of the diseases that have been associated with an inflammatory component aging, suggesting that immune involvement is likely,” says Michelle Linterman, a researcher at the Babraham Institute and co-author of the review.
“Understanding how changes in the immune system with age will be very important for the treatment of age-related illnesses in the future.”
Differences can be overcome, however; studies of people living together have shown that the quality of air, food, stress levels, sleep patterns and lifestyle combined had a strong effect on our immune responses. For example, cohabiting couples have a similar immune system compared to the general public.
Researchers say the next would like to explore how changing our environment purpose could shape our immune system and potentially affect our health.
“In order to play with the immune code, first we need to really understand the influences that shape the immune system,” says Liston. “That’s why it’s really great that the environment is more important than genetics, because we can play with the environment.”