Last modified: October 26, 2015
Chemicals from the body’s own immune cells can be used to fight diseases. This is called cytokine therapy. The cells help the body in fighting diseases are known as immune cells. These cells communicate through chemical messages that are called cytokines (Cytokine Therapies: Harnessing the Immune System, 2004). Cytokines are actually types of proteins that are secreted in these cells to regulate important cellular reactions such as proliferation and
differentiation (Starr, Wilson, Viney, Murray, & Rayner, 1997), migration and matrix synthesis (Gharaee-Kermani & Phan, 2001)
These signalling molecules of proteins, peptides and glycol-proteins are polypeptide regulators and immune-modulating agents such as interleukins, interferons (Gilman A, 2001) interferon-α interferon-β.P, interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin 1 to interleukin 27, tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), tumor necrosis factor-β transforming growth factor-α, transforming growth factor β (TGF-β), and various cell growth factors (Hyron-sha, 2001, 1995, 2003). They are critical to various processes that are fundamental homeostatic as well as patho-physiological including fever, wound healing, inflammation, tissue repair and fibrosis (Gharaee-Kermani & Phan, 2001).
Cytokines are produced in nanomolecular concentrations in the cells. By the combination of different cytokines, different responses are produced in the immune system. To illustrate this with an example, interleukin IL-2 stimulates natural killer cells when dispensed in low doses. But when administered in high doses it stimulates CD4+ cells to proliferate if given intermittently but shows no significant outcome if dosed regularly. Consequently, in order to achieve the desired responses, it is imperative to understand the different biological functions of the cytokines and to understand how to exploit them in the best possible manner (Cytokine Therapies: Harnessing the Immune System, 2004).
By utilizing the two characteristics of cytokines in initiating and supplementing immune pathways and dampening these pathways and introducing these chemokines therapeutically, treatments such as immune surveillance and induction of anti-tumor activity could be administered successfully. The practice of using cytokine therapy for the treatment of cancer has gained momentum especially with regard to glioma immunotherapy where cytokines like IL-[82,83], IL-[84,85] and interferons such as IFN,-β, and -) [86-88] are used successfully among others (Ehtesham, Black, & Yu, 2004) and for melanoma that are high-risk metastases or recurrence with interleukin-2, interferon alpha, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) (Kalaaji, 2007). At the other end of the scale, cytokine therapies are also extensively used in treating allergies including asthma and allergic rhinitis. Cytokine therapy does not merely lessen or alleviate the symptoms like the antihistamines and corticosteroids, but actively engage in reducing the sensitivity to the specific allergens that are the basis the reaction thereby providing long term relief and benefits from these afflictions (Durham, Walker, & Varga, 1999).
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