Interleukin-22 is a master regulator protecting and repairing tissues upon an injury. It is a unique cytokine in that it is released from immune cells but does not target immune cells. It selectively targets epithelial cells resulting in an epithelial restricted biology, inducing epithelial tissue repair upon a wide variety of insults. Upon an injury to the epithelium, e.g. caused by infection, a chemical or physical insult, IL-22 is released from resident immune cells. It maintains the integrity of the tissue by preventing necrosis, stimulating cell proliferation and progenitor cell activation, controlling inflammation and securing anti-microbial defense. It is thus a “Survive and Recover” signal to the epithelium. The IL-22 activities can be distilled down to three main effects which favorably tips the balance, during epithelial injury, to minimize tissue/organ damage and secure recovery:
The epithelium defines a barrier between the organism and its surroundings. Both in the form of a discrete epithelial barrier in tissues directly exposed to the environment (skin, lung, and intestine) and in epithelial derived organs (e.g. liver and kidney). Several serious human diseases are caused by an injury to the epithelium, some are exemplified in the figure below. In general, there is a large unmet medical need for epithelial injury diseases.
The cause of injury can come from a pathogenic insult (bacterial, viral or fungal), a physical insult (e.g. wounds or surgery), a chemical insult, or auto-immune disease. The injury leads to tissue damage and inflammation which is often followed by maladaptive repair causing fibrosis. Thus, there is a need for novel treatments that minimize tissue damage, ensures repair, controls inflammation and prevents fibrosis. CytoKi Pharma’s lead program features an engineered protein that works selectively on epithelia and in an orchestrated fashion minimizes tissue damage, stimulates repair, controls inflammation and secures fibrosis free recovery.
IL-22 is secreted as reaction to chemical or mechanical injury, bacterial, viral or fungal infection.