1. CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
One of the more significant changes in an aging body is the occurrence of chronic, low-grade inflammation, a phenomenon called inflamm-aging. “Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is not resolved within minutes or hours but involves immune responses and cytokine production contributing to this mild, persistent inflammatory process that leads to tissue degeneration,” explains Adams.
In people, this chronic inflammation is believed to be related to a host of ailments that become more common with advancing age, such as osteoarthritis, heart disease, diabetes, changes in body composition, energy production and utilization, metabolic homeostasis, immunosenescence, neuronal health and certain cancers. In horses, inflammaging may play a role in the development of many conditions, including arthritis, inflammatory airway diseases, Cushing’s and insulin resistance.
Then again, inflamm-aging may simply be a side effect of these conditions--its causes and effects are still not understood. “This low-grade, chronic inflammatory process occurs with increasing age, and we don’t know why,” says Adams. “There are several theories, and one is that chronic antigenic stimulation over the years has basically worn out the immune system. There is breakdown in the signaling pathways that may contribute to the inflamm-aging that occurs with age, and we are trying to understand what may or may not contribute to this, and what it means for the horse.”
Researchers are investigating how diet, hormones and other factors may influence this phenomenon. “Maybe there’s a nutritional component, or some