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Toxicol Lett. 2007 Jul 30;172(1-2):48-59. Epub 2007 May 25.

Cytokines and other immunological biomarkers in children's environmental health studies.

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Children's Environmental Health Center, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360, USA.


Environmental exposures (e.g. pesticides, air pollution, and environmental tobacco smoke) during prenatal and early postnatal development have been linked to a growing number of childhood diseases including allergic disorders and leukemia. Because the immune response plays a critical role in each of these diseases, it is important to study the effects of toxicants on the developing immune system. Children's unique susceptibility to environmental toxicants has become an important focus of the field of immunotoxicology and the use of immune biomarkers in molecular epidemiology of children's environmental health is a rapidly expanding field of research. In this review, we discuss how markers of immune status and immunotoxicity are being applied to pediatric studies, with a specific focus on the various methods used to analyze T-helper-1/2 (Th1/Th2) cytokine profiles. Furthermore, we review recent data on the effects of children's environmental exposures to volatile organic compounds, metals, and pesticides on Th1/Th2 cytokine profiles and the associations of Th1/Th2 profiles with adverse health outcomes such as pediatric respiratory diseases, allergies, cancer and diabetes. Although cytokine profiles are increasingly used in children's studies, there is still a need to acquire distribution data for different ages and ethnic groups of healthy children. These data will contribute to the validation and standardization of cytokine biomarkers for future studies. Application of immunological markers in epidemiological studies will improve the understanding of mechanisms that underlie associations between environmental exposures and immune-mediated disorders.

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