Immune system

Based on data from animal experiments (Svec and Porter 1998) and from in vitro studies (Meikle etal. 1992; Okabe etal. 1995) DHEA has been suggested asasteroid with immune-regulatory activity. This view is supported by the clinical studies in patients with SLE demonstrating glucocorticoid-sparing activity of DHEA and clinical improvement (Chang et al. 2002; Petri et al. 2002; Van Vollenhoven et al. 1995). However, in these studies DHEA was given at a clearly supraphysiological dose (200 mg/day) and physiological replacement doses (50 mg/d) given to healthy elderlies in the DHEAge study did not have any effect on B- and T-cell populations, cytokine production or natural killer cell cytotoxicity (unpublished observations). In vitro studies with human cells also show DHEA-induced increases in IL-2 secretion (Suzuki et al. 1991) and NK cell activity (Solerte et al. 1999) and inhibition of IL-6 release (Gordon et al. 2001; Straub et al. 1998). IL-2 secretion in SLE correlates with circulating DHEAS and in vitro DHEA restores IL-2 secretion from T lymphocytes of SLE patients (Suzuki et al. 1995). No consistent in vivo data on immune effects of DHEA in humans are reported. Again it is likely that beneficial effects of DHEA are more easily detectable in patients with immunopathies and an altered immune system at baseline.

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