Autism spectrum disorders

Inflammation and autism—an important piece of the puzzle

Autism spectrum disorder has neither a distinct pathogenesis nor pharmaceutical treatment, yet evidence continues to mount demonstrating immune dysfunction and inflammation in specific brain regions of children diagnosed ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

Study Sheds Light on a Potential Cause of Insomnia

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a study at Emory University, investigators have shed new light on a potential cause of insomnia, demonstrating that products of the immune system called cytokines may be the culprits.

Medical research

Scientists learn why the flu may turn deadly

As the swine flu continues its global spread, researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have discovered important clues about why influenza is more severe in some people than it is in others. ...

Immunology

Teenage acne may be a natural, transient inflammatory state

Adolescent acne does not always result in a pathological condition; rather, it may be a natural, transient inflammatory state occurring when the maturing facial skin is exposed to new microbes and enhanced production of an ...

Genetics

Genes linked to death from sepsis identified in mice

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body's immune response to infection spirals out of control. Bacteria in the bloodstream trigger immune cells to release powerful molecules called cytokines to quickly ...

Oncology & Cancer

Confining cell-killing treatments to tumors

Cytokines, small proteins released by immune cells to communicate with each other, have for some time been investigated as a potential cancer treatment.

Oncology & 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 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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