Reduced thymic output in elite athletes

Adria Prieto-Hinojosa, Andrea Knight, Claude Compton, Michael Gleeson, Paul J. Travers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Athletes undergoing intensive training schedules have chronic exposure to stress-induced hormones such as cortisol that can depress immune function. We compared the circulating levels of T cell receptor excision circles (TREC), a marker of recent thymic emigrants, as well as the levels of naïve and memory subsets in a group of elite endurance athletes and in controls. The athletes showed a reduction in absolute numbers of naïve T cells, particularly in CD4 T cells. In contrast, memory cells were increased. TREC levels in the athletes were significantly reduced compared to age-matched controls. Such changes resemble premature ageing of the T cell component of the immune system. Since thymic production of T cells naturally decline with age, these results raise the concern that prolonging high intensity exercise into the 4th decade of life may have deleterious consequences for athletes' health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-79
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume39
Early online date13 Jan 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

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