Israeli researchers claim they have discovered a way to reverse the aging process by removing B lymphocytes – a kind of white blood cell in vertebrate immune systems – from old mice and forcing the production of young cells to replace them.

Our immune systems get weaker with age, which explains why elderly people suffer an increase in illnesses, and a decrease in their ability to respond to vaccination. The B lymphocytes, which decline dramatically as we age, have a major impact on the functioning of the immune system, and are responsible for antibody protection.

Using old mice, the researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, showed that active removal of the B cells changes the body’s cellular homeostasis and generates conditions of chronic deficiency in these cells.

To overcome this, the body reactivates the bone marrow, forcing it to produce B cells at a similar rate to young mice. When they studied this, the researchers found the new B cells replaced the old cells that were removed and led to up to 400% improvement in the ability of the treated mice to respond to vaccinations.

“We have succeeded in showing that it is possible to turn back the aging process,” lead researcher, Prof. Doron Melamed of the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine told The Jerusalem Post.

“This paper shows – for the first time – that physiological aging is a regulated process that can be reversed,” Melamed told the Post. “It also presents a novel approach for rejuvenating the immune system and for enhancing the efficacy of vaccination among the elderly population.”

The scientists published their findings in the scientific journal, Blood, earlier this year.