One of a family of molecules that control the growth and function of many types of lymphocytes. Interleukin-2 is an immune system protein produced in the body by T cells. It has potent effects on the proliferation, differentiation and activity of a number of immune system cells, including T cells, B cells and natural killer cells. Commercially, IL-2 is produced by recombinant DNA technology and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of metastatic renal (i.e., kidney) cell cancer. Studies have shown that in the test tube, addition of IL-2 can improve some of the immunologic functions that are abnormal in HIV-infected patients. In addition, IL-2 is a growth factor for T cells, causing them to increase in number. In a clinical study with IL-2, it was found that in a small number of HIV-infected patients, IL-2 boosted levels of CD4+ T cells (i.e., the infection-fighting white blood cells normally destroyed during HIV infection) for more than two years, a far longer time than typically seen with currently available anti-HIV drugs. See also Biotechnology; B Lymphocytes; Genetic Engineering; Killer T Cells; Lymphocyte; T Cells.
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