We also examined the Th1-Th2 response to cold exposure. Th1 and Th2 refer to the T-helper cell type one and two responses, respectively, by CD4+ cells when antigen-presenting cells such as macrophages present them with antigens. The Th1 response is associated with the release of the cytokines IL-2, gamma-interferon, and IL-12, which among other things, seem to promote the growth of cytotoxic, or killer, CD8+ cells (cytotoxic T-cells). These cells, one of the main weapons of the cellular immune response, are critical in locating and killing infected cells. The Th2 response is associated with the release of IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10. These cytokines tend to encourage the production of antibodies. In addition to promoting antibodies, these cytokines actually suppress the Th1 response, reducing the magnitude of the cytotoxic T-cell response. The cytokines associated with Th1 in turn suppress the Th2 response. Our data (Rhind et al., unpublished observations) show that Th1 cytokines are down-regulated by cold exposure in the absence of a strong Th2 response, which suggests the possibility that cytotoxic CD8+ cells will not be as effective after 3–6 h of cold exposure.
In conclusion, from the limited amount of data collected to this point, it appears that moderate acute cold exposure per se has no detrimental effect on the innate component of the immune system. It should be pointed out that these findings cannot be extrapolated directly to predicting host defense and susceptibility to pathogenic organisms. The mechanisms for these cold-induced natural killer cell and intracellular cytokine changes are still unknown at this point, although the literature suggests the sympathetic nervous system mediates many of the changes. Further studies using adrenergic-blocking drugs will clarify this. Also, because cold exposure affects cytokine production, cold exposure may provide a good physiological model to examine sympathetic nervous system regulation of cytokine production.
The views, opinions, and/or findings in this report are those of the authors and should not be construed as official Department of the Army position, policy, or decision unless so designated by other official designation. Human subjects participated in these studies after giving their free and informed voluntary consent. Investigators adhered to AR 70-25 and USMRDC Regulation 70-25 on Use of Volunteers in Research.
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