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Increasing age alters innate immune-mediated responses; however, the mechanisms underpinning these changes in humans are not fully understood. Using a human dermal model of acute inflammation, we found that, although inflammatory onset is similar between young and elderly individuals, the resolution phase was substantially impaired in elderly individuals. This arose from a reduction in T cell immunoglobulin mucin receptor-4 (TIM-4), a phosphatidylserine receptor expressed on macrophages that enables the engulfment of apoptotic bodies, so-called efferocytosis. Reduced TIM-4 in elderly individuals was caused by an elevation in macrophage p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activity. Administering an orally active p38 inhibitor to elderly individuals rescued TIM-4 expression, cleared apoptotic bodies and restored a macrophage resolution phenotype. Thus, inhibiting p38 in elderly individuals rejuvenated their resolution response to be more similar to that of younger people. This is the first resolution defect identified in humans that has been successfully reversed, thereby highlighting the tractability of targeting pro-resolution biology to treat diseases driven by chronic inflammation.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat immunol

Publication Date





615 - 625


Age Factors, Aged, Animals, Apoptosis, Blister, Cantharidin, Gene Expression, Humans, Immunity, Innate, Inflammation, Macrophages, Male, Membrane Proteins, Neutrophils, Phagocytosis, Receptors, Cell Surface, Signal Transduction, p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases