Natural killer cells: In health and disease

Hematol Oncol Stem Cell Ther. 2015 Jun;8(2):47-55. doi: 10.1016/j.hemonc.2014.11.006. Epub 2014 Dec 27.


Natural killer (NK) cells constitute our bodies' frontline defense system, guarding against tumors and launching attacks against infections. The activities of NK cells are regulated by the interaction of various receptors expressed on their surfaces with cell surface ligands. While the role of NK cells in controlling tumor activity is relatively clear, the fact that they are also linked to various other disease conditions is now being highlighted. Here, we present an overview of the role of NK cells during normal body state as well as under diseased state. We discuss the possible utilization of these powerful cells as immunotherapeutic agents in combating diseases such as asthma, autoimmune diseases, and HIV-AIDS. This review also outlines current challenges in NK cell therapy.

Keywords: Immunotherapy; NK cells and HIV1; NK cells and autoimmunity; NK cells and cancer; Natural killer (NK) cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / pathology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / therapy
  • Animals
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / pathology
  • Virus Diseases / therapy