Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have identified an existing medication that restores key elements of the immune system linked to a decline in immunity and health as people grow age.

The UCSF team found that extremely low doses of lenalidomide can stimulate the body’s immune-cell protein sites, which typically slow down as people grow older, and rebalance the levels of several key cytokines.

The researchers have concluded an initial study designed to define the dose range of such a therapy in a group of 13 patients, and are working on the development of a daily pill to boost immunity in the elderly.

The study results are a culmination of research begun in 2009, which revealed that that truly healthy women aged 70-80 had the same levels of key cytokines, Interleukin (IL)-2, IFN-gamma and IL-17 as healthy 20 year olds.

The UCSF team plans to begin larger-scale clinical trials in 2011 to test the drug’s effectiveness.