Session III, Immune System, Antioxidant and Defense Functions of Zinc
Zinc and Health: Workshop Summary
Session III, Immune System, Antioxidant and Defense Functions of
Zinc illustrated the role of the immune system in zinc physiology.
The immune system is very adversely and rapidly affected by even modest
degrees of zinc deficiency, and can alter immune system function and host
defense mechanisms. The classic effects of zinc deficiency on the immune
system are thymic atrophy and lymphopenia. The effect of zinc nutriture
on Th2 immunity has been under-appreciated. Zinc is required for the development
of Th2 immune responses that help protect against infection
resulting from gastrointestinal helminth parasites. The gut is an excellent
site for studying zinc's putative role in Thl/Th2 balance. Zinc has
also been shown to have a role in the modulation of cytokine production.
If proper parameters are chosen, the immune system could be used as a good
bellwether of how effective zinc supplementation is in a number of clinical
areas, such as GI mucosal immunology and pulmonary immunology. Data
were presented to show that the status of zinc in the cell affects and
modulates cell death or apoptosis. The ability of nitric oxide to release
zinc from metallothionein is really an interesting and important discovery
suggesting that an antioxidant role exists for cellular zinc.