What Is Recombinant Interleukin?

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  • Written By: Jo Dunaway
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 28 December 2019
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Recombinant interleukin is a protein cultivated from humans, consisting of saccharides, nucleotides, and amino acids. It is usually sold in a dehydrated state to be reconstituted with water, can be diluted with buffers and, in this dry state, is usually stable for two years when stored correctly. The recombinant interleukin-2 (rIL-2) is the variety most heard about and is produced by thymus cells (T-cells) with cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) and has multiple functions for treating different forms of inflammation. It is mainly used in inducing and terminating immune responses for inflammation and is prescribed in a wide variety of therapeutic treatments.

In medical studies, rIL-2 has been used to treat patients with chronic Hepatitis B (HB), and the results have been encouraging. Of 11 patients who for seven to 28 days were given daily intravenous dosage, one lost HB “s” antigens and “e” antigens that hepatitis patients usually carry in their blood the rest of their lives, and actually gained some anti-HB antibodies. Some lost the HB “s” antigen and others lost the “e” antigen and only one patient showed no change. The number of positive CD4 cells were increased, as well as natural killer T-cells. From these initial results, scientists have surmised that rIL-2 acts like an immunomodulatory agent against chronic HB.


For eight years, starting in 1989, the Cytokine Working Group at Albert Einstein Cancer Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York carried on three phase II studies. They sought to determine if using recombinant interleukin 2 therapeutic agents on cancer patients with renal metastases would cause their cancers to respond, if they could have long-term response, and to compare the toxicity problems that might arise. Using both rIL-2 alone and rIL-2 combined with differing dosages of rIL-2 with recombinant interferon-alpha (rIFN-alpha) and other agents in combination and administered both intravenously and by subcutaneous shots. The overall response rates were similar whether for combinations or rIL-2 alone; however, the rIL-2, given alone and in high doses gave the longest duration of response.

Recombinant human interleukin 2 has also been used to treat for colorectal cancer to produce histamine responses that allow chemotherapies given to exhibit enhanced responses and make them more potent against sarcomas. With these successes, doctors and scientists have used these interleukins to treat other cancers and immune system diseases. Using recombinant interleukin 2 with HIV patients who have seen little relief from other antiretroviral therapies has produced increases in both CD4 T-cells and cytokine production, which increased cluster of differentiation 8 (CD8) T lymphocytes. Long-term relief outcomes were realized and the positive changes in homeostasis have allowed these patients to lead more symptom-free lives.


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