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November 24, 1989

As Immune System Yields Its Secrets, New Strategies Against Disease Emerge

JAMA. 1989;262(20):2786-2791. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430200014004

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KNOWLEDGE of the immune system and ways in which it might be manipulated, gained during the last 10 years, is beginning to have an impact on clinical medicine.

That message has emerged from the annual meeting of the Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC. It was enunciated specifically by Hugh McDevitt, MD, Stanford (Calif) University School of Medicine, who chaired the meeting.

Until a few years ago, immune cell-secreted cytokines such as the interleukins and lymphokines were laboratory curiosities—tools for the scientists investigating the immune system. But now they have been cloned and, by means of recombinant DNA techniques, are available in quantity. This means that the role of these growth factors in mediating the immune response can now be studied.

Looking to Interleukins  As an example of what is being learned, William E. Paul, MD, says, one of these interleukin messengers between leukocytes, interleukin 4 (IL-4), is now recognized as