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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2005 Aug;62(16):1850-62.

The therapeutic potential of tumor necrosis factor for autoimmune disease: a mechanistically based hypothesis.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital-East, Boston, 02192, USA.


Excess levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) have been associated with certain autoimmune diseases. Under the rationale that elevated TNF-alpha levels are deleterious, several anti-TNF-alpha therapies are now available to block the action of TNF-alpha in patients with autoimmune diseases with a chronic inflammatory component to the destructive process. TNF-alpha antagonists have provided clinical benefit to many patients, but their use also is accompanied by new or aggravated forms of autoimmunity. Here we propose a mechanistically based hypothesis for the adverse events observed with TNF-alpha antagonists, and argue for the opposite therapeutic strategy: to boost or restore TNF-alpha activity as a treatment for some forms of autoimmunity. Activation defects in the transcription factor nuclear factor kappaB leave autoreactive T cells sensitive to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis. Treatment with TNF-alpha, by destroying autoreactive T cells, appears to be a highly targeted strategy to interrupt the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes, lupus and certain forms of autoimmunity.

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