Chronic inflammation is thought to be one of the major roads by which a few forms of low-level molecular damage, the root causes of aging, give rise to a much broader and more varied range of cell and tissue dysfunctions. Short-term inflammation is a necessary part of both regeneration and the protective activities of the immune system, and is vital to health. Long-term chronic inflammation that arises as a maladaptive reaction to the damage of aging is a different story, however. It changes the behavior of cells for the worse, disrupting regenerative processes, damaging organs, and accelerating the development and progression of age-related disease.
Inflammation is particularly well studied in the context of neurodegeneration, the gradual failure of the brain and the mind that it hosts. The central nervous system, brain included, is segregated from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier, and, accordingly, the immune system of the brain is somewhat different to that of the rest of the body. Cells that carry out the usual functions expected of the immune system, including mounting a defense against pathogens and clearing up debris, also participate in neural activity, such as by assisting in creation
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