Immune cells mediate their effects by releasing cytokines and thus establishing particular microenvironments. T helper lymphocytes (Th) that originate from the thymus play a major role in creating a specific microenvironment for a particular organ or tissue. Following an immune challenge, immune cells produce cytokine, the type of which determines their differentiation into T helper-1 (Th-1) or T-helper 2 (Th-2) lymphocytes. For example, Th-1 lymphocytes secrete interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-y (INF-y) setting the basis for a pro-inflammatory environment. Conversely, the Th-2 lymphocytes secrete cytokines such as IL-4 and IL-10 which are predominately involved in antibody production following an antigenic challenge. The actions of the two types of lymphocytes are closely intertwined, both acting in concert and responding to counter regulatory effects of their cytokines. For example Thl cytokines produce pro-inflammatory cytokine that while acting to reinforce the cytoytic immune response, also down-regulate the production ofTh-2 type cytokines.2
Each of the different components of the immune system interacts, at different stages and circumstances, with the trophoblast. Our objective is to understand the type of interaction and its role in the support of a normal pregnancy.
In the following pages I will summarize some of the main hypotheses proposed to explain the trophoblast-maternal interaction.
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