Reversing Immunosenescence: The Key To Anti-Aging?
Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH
International Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine, Winter 2000, pp
Immunosenescence describes the deterioration of immune response
that occurs with age and is the cause of increased frequency and
severity of autoimmune, infectious and non infectious diseases
that afflict the elderly. Evidence has accumulated from several
studies suggesting an association between immune function and
individual longevity. Studies on various natural and nutritional
therapies show that many aspects of impaired immune response are
correctable and that immunosenescence can be prevented and, in
some cases, reversed. For instance, a hybridized mushroom extract
called Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) has proven extremely
effective for activating vital parts of the immune system leading
to both prevention and treatment of serious diseases associated
with aging such as Hepatocarcinoma Carcinoma and Hepatitis C.
Treatments such as these provide an essential aspect of anti-aging
medicine that, not only provides improved quality of life by preventing
diseases that debilitate the aging patient, but also slows or
reverses the progression of cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, atherosclerosis,
Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
Immunosenescence is the result of continuous exposure to a variety
of potential antigens (viruses, bacteria, pollution, food, self
molecules, and others). This exposure is accelerated by atrophy
of the thymus in early adulthood, increased levels of cortisol
and decreased levels of DHEA and other hormones after age 50.
In addition, contributions to immunosenesence occur through the
sedentary lifestyles and undernutrition of the elderly. Much of
the decrease in immunoresponsiveness related to immunosenescence
is linked to decreased functioning of Natural Killer (NK) cells,
T cells and macrophages, and suppression of IL-2, and the overproduction
of IL-6 and other inflammatory cytokines.
To prevent immunosenesence, Natural Killer (NK) cells play a
key role, because of their dual functions as a cytotoxic destroyer
and immunoregulator. As the sentinel cell in the immune system,
NK cells provide the first line defense against invasive pathogens
such as bacteria, viruses and emerging malignancies. The NK cell
participates either directly or indirectly in multiple developmental,
regulatory, and communication networks of the immune system. NK
cell initiated cytokines prevent the overproliferation of precursor
cell populations, thereby exerting more discriminating control
over antigen specific T and B cell responses. In many chronic
and degenerative diseases, level of NK cell function proves to
be an important indicator of disease progression and patient prognosis.
Enhancing NK cell function, restoring lost function or preventing
functional decline is a central mechanism of anti-immunosenescence.
Many therapies that stimulate the immune system in general, also
stimulate NK cell function, but not of the magnitude necessary
to provide a therapeutic effect. Conversely, some pharmaceuticals
that sufficiently stimulate NK cell function have diminishing
effect over time, and/or have such severe side effects that they
are not appropriate for use in the management of chronic diseases.
One natural compound, in particular, offers an effective balance
between high levels of stimulation and non-toxicity. Research
on an extract of hybridized medicinal mushrooms called Active
Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) documents its ability to increase
NK cell function by three hundred fold or more, also stimulating
T-cell, macrophage and cytokine activity. This level of immune
stimulation can be a very effective therapy for patients whose
aged-weakened immune systems have succumb to a number of catastrophic
For instance, a study recently presented at the 1999 European
Surgical Research Meeting demonstrated both
treatment and preventative effects for Hepatocarcinoma patients
using this compound. The goal of this five year study was to evaluate
the efficacy of AHCC as a biologic response modifier and to determine
a correlation between immune stimulation and time to treatment
failure (disease recurrence or death). Of 151 patients to participate
in this study, 70 were given AHCC after having there liver cancer
surgically removed and the remaining 81 acted as the control.
The results show a definite correlation between immune stimulation
and positive therapeutic outcome:
- Patient survival was significantly longer in the treatment
group (avg. 23 months)
- Patient disease recurrence was 18% lower in the treatment
- Patient mortality was significantly lower in the treatment
- There were no side effects associated with treatment.
While cancer remains one of the unfortunate, yet perfect examples
of immunosenesence, another very difficult to treat disease is
emerging towards epidemic proportions as the majority population
is the United States reaches its forties and fifties. Hepatitis
C virus (HCV) is the most common chronic blood borne infection
in the United States. It is estimated that 3.9 million (1.8%)
Americans have been infected with Hepatitis C. Most of these people
are chronically infected and can serve as a source of transmission
to others and are at risk for chronic liver disease or other Hepatitis-C
related chronic diseases during the first two or more decades
following initial infection.
Chronic liver disease associated with Hepatitis-C is the tenth
leading cause of death among adults in the United States and accounts
for approximately 25,000 deaths annually in the United States.
Because most Hepatitis-C infected persons are aged 30-49 years
the number of deaths attributable to Hepatitis-C related chronic
liver disease could increase substantially during the next 10-20
years as this group of infected people reaches ages at which complications
from chronic liver disease typically occur.
Currently, Interferon-Alpha is the treatment of choice by conventional
medical standards even though its long-term effectiveness is only
estimated at 10-20%. Also, Interferon-Alpha has been reported
to create flu-like symptoms in 60% of the people taking it for
Hepatitis C and anemia in 80%. Judging by its lack of effectiveness
and side effects, the growing population of Hepatitis-C sufferers
needs a fast improvement on their treatment options.
Immune system stimulation, particularly NK-cell, T-cell and macrophage
enhancement, could be a viable treatment option for Hepatitis
C given the effectiveness of immune stimulants on many viral infections.
To test the effectiveness of immune stimulation on Hepatitis
C, three patients with chronic hepatitis C were chosen. Once again,
AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) was used because of its
ability to activate NK-cells, T-cells and macrophages and its
previous research on liver disorders.
The first patient was a 64 year-old female who was diagnosed
with Hepatitis C, 2 -3 years before starting AHCC treatment. After
four months, the patient's Hepatitis viral load decreasedÊ 89%
(1,475,000 RNA down to 167,000 RNA) and only 3 months later her
viral load was normal (<2000). Also, the patient reported a
significant increase in energy and was able to return to a normal,
pre-Hepatitis C life style.
Next, was a 35 year old women with Hepatitis C who was originally
diagnosed in July of 1992. The patient started AHCC treatment
in November of 1998. Within four months, the Hepatitis C viral
load was reduced by 27% (2,160,900 RNA to 1,573,400 RNA). This
case is particularly exciting because the patient has a history
of I.V. drug abuse.
The third patient is a 47 year old man who was originally diagnosed
with Hepatitis C in 1974. In December of 1998, his Hepatitis C
viral load was 2,498,200. After six months of AHCC treatment,
the patient's viral load was reduced by 80% (down to 499,600).
Obviously, these cases show how a stimulated immune system has
the ability to lower viral loads and decrease symptoms of Hepatitis
C, such as lack of energy and jaundice. Also, by keeping Hepatitis
C viral loads reduced, you are lowering the possibility of future
complications such as cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
However, what could be most important about this research is what
the treatment didn't do...AHCC did not cause any side effects. Remember,
the leading conventional treatment for Hepatitis C causes flu
like symptoms and anemia and it is only effective in 10-20% of
the cases it treats.
This is very significant for people diagnosed with Hepatitis
C and for people exhibiting the symptoms of Hepatitis C, that
are unable to confirm their diagnosis through laboratory testing.
There are thousands of people who fit this description. Unfortunately,
while they wait to confirm their illness, their liver is already
We cannot ignore our immune systems simply because we do not
feel sick or don't anticipate getting sick. We need to follow
the old adage, "by the time you feel it... it may be too late."
By keeping your immune system strong, you may be able to deter
cancer or heart disease or any other illness that seems to strike
as we age.
Besides AHCC, a complete protocol includes additional natural
and nutritional therapies that support and enhance other aspects
of the immune system. Research and my own clinical experience
shows the benefits of N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, thymic peptides, and
specific antioxidants and minerals. The anti-immunosenescence
approach to anti-aging medicine is the core of preventative medicine,
strengthening the body's own defenses. The effects can be measured
quantitatively through the standard biometric criteria of aging,
and in improved quality of life for patients.
For additional information, please contact:
Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH
264 Madison Ave, Ste 402
New York, New York 10016
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