Pediatrics

Looking for 'help' signals in the blood of newborns with HIE

Measuring a number of biomarkers over time that are produced as the body responds to inflammation and injury may help to pinpoint newborns who are more vulnerable to suffering lasting brain injury due to disrupted oxygen ...

Immunology

Skin repair eliminates 'inflamm-aging' linked to chronic disease

Skin is the body's largest organ, and scientists at UC San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System think it may be to blame for body-wide inflammation linked to numerous chronic diseases ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Viral decoys—how the Ebola virus leads the immune system astray

A research team from Tübingen and Göttingen has described in the renowned journal Cell Reports a new mechanism how the Ebola virus escapes the immune system. The virus causes infected cells to release decoys that inactivate ...

Cardiology

Myocarditis: Overshooting the mark

Researchers of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that a protein called midkine, a member of the class of signaling molecules known as cytokines, is a key driver of inflammation in the heart muscle ...

Immunology

Study finds unique form of chronic sinusitis in older patients

Older patients with a diagnosis of chronic sinusitis—a disease of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses that often persists over many years—have a unique inflammatory signature that may render them less responsive to ...

Cancer

New stem cell therapy to improve fight against leukemia

Stem cell transplantation is effective against leukemia. In many cases, however, the transferred immune cells of the donor also attack the recipients' healthy tissue—often with fatal consequences. Researchers at the University ...

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Cytokine

Cytokines (Greek cyto-, cell; and -kinos, movement) are small cell-signaling protein molecules that are secreted by the glial cells of the nervous system and by numerous cells of the immune system and are a category of signaling molecules used extensively in intercellular communication. Cytokines can be classified as proteins, peptides, or glycoproteins; the term "cytokine" encompasses a large and diverse family of regulators produced throughout the body by cells of diverse embryological origin.

The term "cytokine" has been used to refer to the immunomodulating agents, such as interleukins and interferons. Biochemists disagree as to which molecules should be termed cytokines and which hormones. As we learn more about each, anatomic and structural distinctions between the two are fading. Classic protein hormones circulate in nanomolar (10-9) concentrations that usually vary by less than one order of magnitude. In contrast, some cytokines (such as IL-6) circulate in picomolar (10-12) concentrations that can increase up to 1,000-fold during trauma or infection. The widespread distribution of cellular sources for cytokines may be a feature that differentiates them from hormones. Virtually all nucleated cells, but especially endo/epithelial cells and resident macrophages (many near the interface with the external environment) are potent producers of IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-α. In contrast, classic hormones, such as insulin, are secreted from discrete glands (e.g., the pancreas). As of 2008, the current terminology refers to cytokines as immunomodulating agents. However, more research is needed in this area of defining cytokines and hormones.

Part of the difficulty with distinguishing cytokines from hormones is that some of the immunomodulating effects of cytokines are systemic rather than local. For instance, to use hormone terminology, the action of cytokines may be autocrine or paracrine in chemotaxis and endocrine as a pyrogen. Further, as molecules, cytokines are not limited to their immunomodulatory role. For instance, cytokines are also involved in several developmental processes during embryogenesis

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