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Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 1995;32(3):265-98.

Physiology and pathophysiology of complement: progress and trends.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Wales College of Medicine, Health Park, Cardiff.


The complement system comprises a family of at least 20 plasma and membrane proteins that interact in a tightly regulated cascade system to destroy invading bacteria and prevent the deposition of immune complexes in the tissues. This brief review addresses the basic mechanisms of complement activation and control and describes the active fragments produced during complement activation. The biological importance of the complement system is amply illustrated in patients with complement deficiencies, who are susceptible to bacterial infections and immune complex diseases. The involvement of complement in other immunological diseases is an expanding area of clinical research, supported by the development of new assays for the identification of complement activation. This area is discussed here with particular reference to neurological diseases. A promising new prospect involves the use of complement inhibitory molecules in therapy of complement-mediated disease and this exciting area is also discussed. Novel physiological roles of complement also are being revealed and new evidence that complement and complement receptors play an important role in reproduction is summarized. It is hoped that this brief overview will convey some of the enthusiasm currently pervading research in this underappreciated area of immunology.

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