Title of project or programme

Can immune system rejuvenation restore age-related memory loss? (IMMUNE/MEMORY AGING)

Principal Investigators of project/programme grant
ProfessorMichalEisenbach-Schwartz,Weizmann Institute of ScienceIsrael
Address of institution of lead PI
InstitutionWeizmann Institute of Science
Street AddressP.O. Box 26


Source of funding information

European Research Council

Total sum awarded (Euro)


Start date of award


Total duration of award in months


The project/programme is most relevant to
  • Neurodegenerative disease in general
Research abstract in English

With increased life expectancy, there has been a critical growth in the portion of the population that suffers from age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Attempts are therefore being made to find ways to slow brain-aging processes; successful therapies would have a significant impact on the quality of life of individuals, and decrease healthcare expenditures. Aging of the immune system has never been suggested as a factor in memory loss. My group formulated the concept of protective autoimmunity, suggesting a linkage between immunity and self-maintenance in the context of the brain in health and disease. Recently, we showed that T lymphocytes recognizing brain-self antigens have a pivotal role in maintaining hippocampal plasticity, as manifested by reduced neurogenesis and impaired cognitive abilities in T-cell deficient mice. Taken together, our novel observations that T cell immunity contributes to hippocampal plasticity, and the fact that T cell immunity decreases with progressive aging create the basis for the present proposal. We will focus on the following questions: (a) Which aspects of cognition are supported by the immune system- learning, memory or both; (b) whether aging of the immune system is sufficient to induce aging of the brain; (c) whether activation of the immune system is sufficient to reverse age-related cognitive decline; (d) the mechanism underlying the effect of peripheral immunity on brain cognition; and (e) potential therapeutic implications of our findings. Our preliminary results demonstrate that the immune system contributes to spatial memory, and that imposing an immune deficiency is sufficient to cause a reversible memory deficit. These findings give strong reason for optimism that memory loss in the elderly is preventable and perhaps reversible by immune-based therapies; we hope that, in the not too distant future, our studies will enable development of a vaccine to prevent CNS aging and cognitive loss in elderly.

Lay Summary

    Types: Investments > €500k
    Member States: Israel
    Diseases: Neurodegenerative disease in general
    Years: 2011
    Database Categories: N/A
    Database Tags: N/A

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