Dr. Aaron White is a neuroscientist with an interest in how the brain and immune system interact and how to improve the health of both. I just finished his book titled, Transfer Factors and Immune System Health. In it, he delves into research that started in 1949 with an American Immunologist H. Sherwood Lawrence and the discovery he could transfer immunity to tuberculosis from ill patients to healthy ones using an extract from the ill patients’ white blood cells. He called the mystery component of the extract- transfer factor. In the past 50 years, there have been a 1000 studies and 600 of those examined the therapeutic value of transfer factors in disease treatment and prevention. Essentially transfer factors represent a unique type of messenger used for cell to cell communication in the immune system. Some people theorize that the Transfer Factors evolved as a way of compensating for the immune system’s slow circulatory response to foreign substances. It takes time to react to all the different viruses, bacteria and fungi that we are exposed to.
If all of this sounds like immunizations, you would be correct. However, here is the difference. Immunizations lead to an antibody mediated immunity to extra-cellular (outside the cell) bacterial and viral threats by activating something called the Th2 immune response. The Th1 response from Transfer factors is a cell mediated response, meaning it is implemented when the infection has invaded the interior of the cell. In each situation, different types of cytokines (chemical messengers) are released for the immune system to initiate the appropriate response. These cytokines are either chemokines, interferons, interleukins, lymphokines or tumor necrosis factor. Transfer factors facilitate a Th1 response of Helper T cells and Cytotoxic T cells (from the thymus gland) by attaching to antigens on infected cells and flagging those cells for destruction. The immunization model it is humoral (lymph and blood) mediated and incorporates B cells made in bone to recognize antigens and kill those pathogens in the circulatory systems of our body.
To imagine how this works, suppose some trees in a park were infected with a beetle and needed to be removed before infecting other trees. I compare the transfer factors to a park ranger marking a tree with a red X to signal another park employee that there is an infected and diseased tree from a beetle that needs to be cut down and removed. In the same example of a park, and a tree damaging beetle, the immunization model would activate birds to kill the dangerous beetles. Ideally the birds would recognize and kill the potentially lethal beetles as soon as it entered the park and before they infected any trees, but it’s impossible for the birds to kill all the beetles, hence the need for park rangers. The transfer factor pathway incorporates the Th1 immune response and those T helper cells (CD4 cells) and cytotoxic T cells (CD 8 cells), act like Park Rangers, which if not in sufficient numbers will fail to keep in check many bacteria and viruses that can weaken our immune system such Epstein Barr virus, Human Herpes Virus 6, and Lyme disease.
Can we measure if the Th1 and Th2 system is working properly?
Yes, there is a blood test called the CD4/CD8 ratio. Ideally this number should be above 2.0. This test has mainly been used to evaluate H.I.V. patients to gauge the health of their immune system and to determine if a treatment might be too aggressive for an immunocompromised patient. However, there are many holistic minded doctors who use the test to look for a finding under 2.0 to confirm the relative weakness of the Th1 immune response and the likelihood that it needs help in those patients with chronic illness. There will also be a low interferon gamma level with a weakened Th1 system. Th2 blood evaluations will show elevations of interleukin 4,5, and 13 and less so, interleukin 10. Ideally, we want to see balance between the two systems. If viewed as a see-saw the Th1 and Th2 systems could be thought of as weak on one side or upregulated on the other side.
Transfer Factors as a treatment
Transfer factors are not drugs. They simply carry information that when read by immune cells, cause the immune system to become active and vigilant. Taking transfer factors transfers immunity to the recipient’s immune system to future encounters with a pathogen. Addititionally, it will increase the natural killer cells and cytotoxic T cells needed for future encounters with those pathogens. This is ideal for a Th1 deficient state.
Up until recently transfer factors were only used in hospitals mostly outside the U.S., and were custom made from human blood in a laboratory. However, in the last decade several companies began using patented processes to extract transfer factors from infected chicken eggs and mixed it with colostrum (first cow’s milk) and mushrooms to potentiate its effects. One of those companies is Researched Nutritionals and they have six different products, and their own proprietary formulations to help transfer immunity to Lyme, molds, metal chelation, human herpes virus 6, and mycoplasma. Mycoplasma are a specific species of bacteria that can survive without a cell wall. They are a cross between viruses and bacteria and exhibit the ability to survive antibiotics because of their ability to hide out in a healthy cell.
For anyone with a chronic illness, this information could be a difference maker in understanding their failure to respond to conventional or alternative treatments.