Hepatic macrophage accumulation with aging: cause for concern?

Steven A. Bloomer, Eric D. Moyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Aging is associated with chronic, low-grade inflammation that adversely affects physiological function. The liver regulates systemic inflammation; it is a source of cytokine production and also scavenges bacteria from the portal circulation to prevent infection of other organs. The cells with primary roles in these functions, hepatic macrophages, become more numerous in the liver with “normal” aging (i.e., in the absence of disease). Here, we demonstrate evidence and potential mechanisms for this phenomenon, which include augmented tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a) and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) expression in the liver. Also, we discuss how an age-related impairment in autophagy within macrophages leads to a pro-oxidative state and ensuing production of proinflammatory cytokines, particularly interleukin 6 (IL-6). Given that the liver is a rich source of macrophages, we posit that it represents a major source of the elevated systemic IL-6 observed with aging, which is associated with physiological dysfunction. Testing a causal role for liver macrophage production of IL-6 during aging remains a challenge, yet interventions that have targeted macrophages and/or IL-6 have demonstrated promise in treating age-related diseases. These studies have demonstrated an age-related, deleterious reprogramming of macrophage function, which worsens pathology. Therefore, hepatic macrophage accrual is indeed a cause for concern, and therapies that attenuate the aged phenotype of macrophages will likely prove useful in promoting healthy aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G496-G505
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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