Transfer factor and the immune system

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During the past 20 years, understanding of the mechanisms involved in immune responses has greatly increased. With this better understanding has come the ability to intervene therapeutically in the functioning of the immune system. This intervention may be suppressive (e.g., cortico-steroids, cytotoxic drugs, and antilymphocyte serum) or reconstitutive (e.g., gamma globulin, bone marrow transplantation, and fetal thymus transplantation). One of the oldest known but most recently clinically applied modalities in the latter category is transfer factor (TF).1 Totally rational use of TF at this time is impossible, since its exact role in the immune system is still controversial. The lack of animal systems in which to study TF has greatly hindered advances in this area.

We review the functional relationships of the basic parts of the immune system and consider the possible role of TF in the immune system. It is important to determine which patients would most likely benefit by a trial of TF therapy and to devise new means of interpreting the effects of such therapy.

Organization of the immune system

The cellular basis of the immune system is the lymphocyte.2 Lymphocytes constitute a heterogeneous population of immunologically competent cells which can be divided into two categories designated by the letters T and B. Both groups of cells arise in the bone marrow from pluripotential stem cells (Figure). From the bone marrow some of these cells are transported to the thymus gland where they undergo unknown influences resulting in the functioning maturation to T-lymphocytes. These cells, which are. . .



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