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Terminology Tuesday: cytokines

Cytokines are crazy little buggers.

Basically, cytokines are molecules or proteins that help communication in your immune system. If you scrape a knee, for example, the pro-inflammatory dudes say “HEY YOU GUYS” and get cells moving to help protect and heal the area.

Cytokine is basically the umbrella term, with lymphokines, interleukins, TNF, and chemokines included among others as more defined types.

This could get very technical very quickly, but I want to keep it basic. These terms aren’t easy to understand sometimes and, to be honest, it could take a long time to really learn everything there is to know about cytokines.

These are cells related to an inflammatory response, so if you have certain diseases these guys aren’t always helpful. However, they can and have been manipulated to create some of the medications to treat autoimmune or autoinflammatory diseases. For example, we have TNF alpha inhibitors like Enbrel and Humira that suppress that specific cytokine to help lower inflammation in the body. Actemra similarly suppresses IL-6.

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  1. Don't forget depression: "…evidence indicates that inflammatory cytokines contribute to the development of depression in both medically ill and medically healthy individuals." Yay!

  2. Very true!!

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