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 ...

Immunology

Study reviews what causes chronic itching and scratching

Relentless itch is a feature of many skin disorders, such as eczema and psoriasis, but the cause of this itch—and what drives us to scratch—is somewhat mysterious. A review appearing November 21 in the journal Trends ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Protection against malaria: A matter of balance

A balanced production of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines at two years of age protects against clinical malaria in early childhood, according to a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). The ...

Neuroscience

Nature of immune cells in the human brain disclosed

Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and Amsterdam UMC have discovered how T cells protect the brain against harmful viruses. The results of the study, which are published in Nature Communications, ...

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Cytokine

Cytokines (Greek cyto-, cell; and -kinos, movement) are a category of signaling molecules that are used extensively in cellular communication. They are proteins, peptides, or glycoproteins. The term cytokine encompasses a large and diverse family of polypeptide regulators that are produced widely throughout the body by cells of diverse embryological origin.

Basically, the term "cytokine" has been used to refer to the immunomodulating agents (interleukins, interferons, etc.). Conflicting data exists about what is termed a cytokine and what is termed a hormone. Anatomic and structural distinctions between cytokines and classic hormones are fading as we learn more about each. 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.

The action of cytokines may be autocrine, paracrine, and endocrine. Cytokines are critical to the development and functioning of both the innate and adaptive immune response, although not limited to just the immune system. They are often secreted by immune cells that have encountered a pathogen, thereby activating and recruiting further immune cells to increase the system's response to the pathogen. Cytokines are also involved in several developmental processes during embryogenesis.

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