According to the free radical theory of aging, oxidative stress plays a key role in the senescent decline of the immune system, and therefore antioxidants may provide an effective therapy in order to protect the immune function against oxidative damage. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to investigate the favourable effect of a diet supplemented with a glutathione precursor - namely the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC, 0.1% w/w) - on several functions of the leucocytes from prematurely-aging mice (PAM). In adult PAM, the immune functions studied showed values similar to those of older mice, and worse than those found in adult non prematurely-aging mice (NPAM). A short-term ingestion (4 weeks) of NAC, although unable to influence the NK activity, the IL-2 release or the glutathione content of the peritoneal leucocytes of PAM, resulted in an improvement of other very important leucocyte functions such as the lymphoproliferative response to the mitogen Con A, and IL-1beta and TNFalpha release.
antioxidant; glutathione; leucocytes; lymphoproliferation; N-acetylcysteine
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