OBJECTIVES: To analyze several functions and antioxidant parameters of peripheral blood neutrophils from healthy centenarians (men and women) and compare them with those of healthy young (aged 25–35) and middle-aged (aged 65–75) men and women.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.
PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-one healthy centenarians (8 men), 30 young adults (15 men), and 30 middle-aged adults (15 men).
MEASUREMENTS: Several neutrophil functions (adherence, chemotaxis, phagocytosis, and stimulated and nonstimulated intracellular superoxide anion levels) and antioxidant parameters (glutathione levels and catalase activity) were measured in peripheral blood neutrophil suspension in the three study groups.
RESULTS: Neutrophil functions of the middle-aged group were worse than those of young adults and centenarians (lower chemotaxis and phagocytosis and higher adherence and superoxide anion levels). The neutrophil functions of the centenarians were closer to those of the young adults. Age-related differences in neutrophil functions were fundamentally similar in men and women, except for intracellular superoxide anion levels, which were lower in young adult women than in young adult men. With normal aging, total glutathione levels decrease, but the centenarians in this study showed levels similar to those of young adults. Centenarians showed the highest catalase activity of the three groups.
CONCLUSION: Progressive impairment of the immune system accompanies aging. The better preservation of function and antioxidant systems in the neutrophils of centenarians could play a key role in the longevity of these subjects.