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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description: People are living longer, although this is accompanied by chronic illnesses which affect their quality of life. The goal of research is to delay or reverse this aging process in order to improve health in the elderly population. This book explores the aging process of the immune system.
Purpose: This book intends to present "the first multi-disciplinary approach to the understanding of immune aging, or immunosenescence; it combines biological data and clinical observations with psychological, social, and behavioral perspectives."
Audience: Although a target audience is not described, researchers in immunology and clinicians working with the elderly will benefit the most from this book. The international authorship represents the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, and Germany.
Features: Introductions to the innate immune system and adaptive immune system begin the book. Next, it addresses the effects of stress on various topics. For example, caring for a spouse with dementia is exhausting, with research showing that the custodian normally spends more than 10 hours a day for up to five years in this situation. This can result in a compromised immune response to wound healing, control of latent herpesviruses, and systemic inflammation. Neutrophil function is also affected by aging, since the immune responses decline, although a differentiation has to be made between chronic and acute stress. The book also discusses cytomegalovirus and the link between stress and immunity. Psychosocial, demographic, and lifestyle factors can account for decreased telomere length (repetitive DNA sequences), predictive of increased mortality and chronic diseases. An interesting discussion centers on socioeconomic status and immunosenescence. People with fewer educational and economic resources have a shorter life expectancy and suffer from chronic illnesses at an earlier age. Finally, the authors show how exercise can increase longevity and how obesity contributes to "telomere attrition, thymic involution, diminished antibody response to vaccination, and elevated inflammation." A significant number of tables and figures help clarify the research findings, but this book is not easy to read without a solid background in immunology and/or microbiology.
Assessment: This book addresses an important subject, in light of the growing number of elderly individuals in the population and covers a wide variety of topics, integrating biological and psychosocial factors. However, it is most appropriate for a specific audience, namely those with a background in immunology or microbiology.