Over the past three decades the field of immunotoxicology, the study of
the effects of exposure to drugs, chemicals, or physical/environmental agents
on the structure and function of the immune system has benefited from an
increasingly detailed understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of
innate and acquired immunity. Arguably one of the most promising areas of
investigation centers on the intensely complex network of biochemical
regulators, namely the cytokines (and, to a lesser degree, their biochemical
cousins the chemokines). Cytokines facilitate the initial recognition of
foreignness that launches innate host defenses, they form the bridge that
allows a nonspecific response to mature into an antigen-specific acquired
immune response, and they maintain this response for the life of the individual.
Clearly, any event that affects the biology of these important
molecules is likely to have significant effects on the overall immune
competence of the host.
In Cytokines in Human Health: Immunotoxicology, Pathology, and
Therapeutic Applications, experts of cytokine biology share their knowledge
on various aspects of how modulation of cytokines can affect human
health. First, the basic biology of cytokines is reviewed, particularly as this
relates to the ability of external influences (whether inadvertent or deliberate)
to modify the expression, production, and activity of these molecules.
Various chapters describe methodology for measuring cytokine activity,
basic description of how differential cytokine modulation determines the
type of immune response generated, and how microbes can act as agents of
immunotoxicity by directly modulating the cytokine cascade.
This sets the stage for practical preclinical understanding of the effect of
cytokines, including how they function in chemical allergy, lung toxicity,
and drug abuse. In addition, methods are described for assessing cytokine
immunotoxicity. This group of chapters provides the reader with a broad
understanding of the range of cytokine activity in human disease.