eISSN: 1644-4124
ISSN: 1426-3912
Central European Journal of Immunology
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vol. 40

Review paper
Selected aspects of the action of cobalt ions in the human body

Katarzyna Czarnek
Sylwia Terpiłowska
Andrzej K. Siwicki

(Centr Eur J Immunol 2015; 40 (2): 236-242)
Online publish date: 2015/08/03
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Cobalt is widespread in the natural environment and can be formed as an effect of anthropogenic activity. This element is used in numerous industrial applications and nuclear power plants. Cobalt is an essential trace element for the human body and can occur in organic and inorganic forms. The organic form is a necessary component of vitamin B12 and plays a very important role in forming amino acids and some proteins in nerve cells, and in creating neurotransmitters that are indispensable for correct functioning of the organism. Its excess or deficiency will influence it unfavourably. Salts of cobalt have been applied in medicine in the treatment of anaemia, as well as in sport as an attractive alternative to traditional blood doping. Inorganic forms of cobalt present in ion form, are toxic to the human body, and the longer they are stored in the body, the more changes they cause in cells. Cobalt gets into the body in several ways: firstly, with food; secondly by the respiratory system; thirdly, by the skin; and finally, as a component of biomaterials. Cobalt and its alloys are fundamental components in orthopaedic implants and have been used for about 40 years. The corrosion of metal is the main problem in the construction of implants. These released metal ions may cause type IV inflammatory and hypersensitivity reactions, and alternations in bone modelling that lead to aseptic loosening and implant failure. The ions of cobalt released from the surface of the implant are absorbed by present macrophages, which are involved in many of the processes associated with phagocytose orthopaedic biomaterials particles and release pro-inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α), and prostaglandin.

cobalt, macrophages, type IV hypersensitivity reactions, biomaterials, implant

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