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Curr Opin Hematol. 2004 Nov;11(6):405-10.

Interleukin-18: recent advances.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0942, USA.



Interleukin-18 (IL-18) has potent immunomodulatory effects. It is the only cytokine with a unique capacity to induce T helper 1 or T helper 2 polarization, depending on the immunologic context. Serum levels of IL-18 are increased in many human diseases and it has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several immune-mediated processes. Some of the recent key advances in the immunobiology of IL-18 are discussed in this review.


Recent data from several laboratories have shed light on the structure of IL-18; the signaling cascades that are initiated; and its role on modulating T cells, dendritic cells, and natural killer cell function. Several new reports have expanded and delineated the role of IL-18 in a multitude of diseases, but only recent advances in the role of IL-18 in three disease processes (acute graft-versus-host disease, insulin-dependent diabetes, and sepsis), where it appears to play paradoxic roles are discussed.


Although emerging data shed more light on the complex role of IL-18 in immune reactions, they also pose more questions. Given the pleiotropic, complex, and at times paradoxic effects of IL-18 in various disease processes, better understanding of its immunobiology might lead to the development of IL-18 and/or its antagonists as therapeutic agents against immune-mediated diseases.

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