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Thymosin alpha 1 (Tα1) is a peptide, or long branch chain of amino acids, produced naturally by the thymus gland. The thymus is where immune cells, also known as T cells, mature and are released when prompted to do so by the Tα1 peptide. T cell production and action within the body is vital to adaptive immunity. This is the mode by which immune cells are able to recognize and kill foreign invaders. Specifically, Tα1 has been shown to enhance the function of certain immune cells called T and dendritic cells. These white blood cells play pivotal roles in the body’s defense process to anyone with a depressed immune system or suffering from an infection.
Thymosin alpha 1 (Tα1), a 28-amino acid peptide, was first described and characterized from calf thymuses in 1977. This peptide can enhance T-cell, dendritic cell (DC) and antibody responses, modulate cytokines and chemokines production, and block steroid-induced apoptosis of thymocytes. Due to its pleiotropic biological activities, Tα1 has gained increasing interest in recent years and has been used for the treatment of various diseases in clinic. Many studies have been performed to identify the immunoregulatory activity of Tα1 in vitro and in vivo. Evidence has shown that Tα1 increased the efficiency of T cell maturation, stimulated precursor stem cell differentiation into the CD4+/CD8+ T cells, and balanced CD3/CD4+/CD8+ T cells of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). By stimulating natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic lymphocytes (CD8+ T cell), Tα1 could directly kill virally infected cells by activating dendritic cells (DCs). Tα1 was able to protect immunocompromised mice from death caused by aspergillosis. Tα1 stimulated a significant increase of IL-2 and led to a decrease in the Th2 cytokines such as IL-4 and IL-10 in patients with chronic HCV. Tα1 remarkably decreased the severity of severe acute pancreatitis by having a negative effect on serum levels of IL-1β and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). Tα1 also upregulated specific cytokine receptors such as high-affinity IL-2 cytokine receptor.
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