A high plasma concentration of TNF-alpha is associated with dementia in centenarians.

BACKGROUND: Inflammatory mechanisms and immune activation have been hypothesized to play a role in the pathogenesis of age-associated diseases such as dementia and atherosclerosis. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the plasma concentration of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha in a large cohort of centenarians and to look for its possible associations with cognitive function, atherosclerosis, and general health status. Furthermore, we investigated whether the concentration of TNF-alpha was correlated with the blood concentration of leucocyte subsets or the plasma concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6, soluble TNF receptor 11 (sTNFR-H) (75 kDa) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

METHODS: Plasma TNF-alpha was measured by ELISA in 126 centenarians, 45 subjects aged 81 years, 23 subjects aged 55-65 years, and 38 subjects aged 18-30 years. Atherosclerosis was evaluated by the ankle-brachial blood pressure index, and general health status was evaluated by the body mass index and the number of diagnoses present.

RESULTS: The concentration of TNF-alpha was significantly increased in 126 centenarians compared to younger control groups, and a high concentration of TNF-alpha was associated with both Alzheimer’s disease and generalized atherosclerosis in the centenarians. The concentration of TNF-alpha was positively correlated with the concentrations of plasma IL-6, sTNFR-II, and CRP. No associations were found with increased leucocyte subsets or the body mass index.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that, even in apparently healthy subjects, age-associated immune activation indicated by raised levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines may reflect age-associated pathological processes that develop over decades.

Source: J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 1999 Jul;54(7):M357-64

PMID: 10462168, UI: 99389264

(Department of Infectious Diseases, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. infdishb@rh.dk)

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