The National Institutes of Health is initiating a phase I clinical trial of the lymphokine interleukin 2 (IL-2) that it hopes may revive the immunologic systems of patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Behind this approach lie some basic research findings by a number of groups into the immunologic characteristics of the disease. For example, Gerald V. Quinnan, MD, chief of the Division of Virology in the office of biologics of the Food and Drug Administration, and his associates, including Alain H. Rook, MD, have found that cytotoxic T lymphocytes from patients with AIDS have a marked depression in their ability to respond to viral infection. (Cytotoxic T lymphocytes are cells especially primed to kill only cells specifically infected by a "priming" agent.) In addition, the investigators have found that natural killer (NK) cells from patients with AIDS are depressed in activity compared with NK cells from normal persons.