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SELGRADE, M. Immune System. 4th, Chapter 13, T.J. Woodruff, S.J. Janssen, L. J. Guillette and L. C. Giudice (ed.), Environmental Impacts on Reproductive Health and Fertility. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, , 188-193, (2010).
This is a textbook chapter of Immunotoxicology that is intended to train young toxicologists.
A properly functioning immune system is essential to good health. It defends the body against infectious agents and in some cases tumor cells. Individuals with immune deficiencies resulting from genetic defects, diseases (e.g., AIDS, leukemia), or drug therapies are more susceptibleto infectionsand certaintypes ofcancer,the consequences ofwhichcanbe life-threatening. On the other hand, the immune system may react to foreign substances that would otherwise be relatively innocuous, such as certain chemicals, pollens, or house dust. The resulting allergic reactions can produce an array of pathologies ranging from skin rashes and rhinitis to more life threatening asthmatic and anaphylactic reactions. A crucial part of immune function is the ability to distinguish endogenous components ("self') from potentially harmful exogenous components ("non-self'). Failure to make this distinction results in autoimmune disease. Immunotoxicology is the study of undesired effects resulting from the interactions of xenobiotics with the immune system (Figure 19.1). There is evidence that some xenobiotics can cause immune suppression. Xenobiotics can also interact with the immune system to either cause or exacerbate allergic disease. Finally, there is also evidence that xenobiotics have some involvement in autoimmune disease. This chapter provides a brief overview of the immune system, chemicals associated with immune suppression and immune pathologies, and approaches to testing for these effects. I Disc1aimer: This chapter has been reviewed by the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents necessarily reflects the views and policies ofthe Agency, nor does mention oftrade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.