What Cytokines Mean?

Cytokines Meaning - The name "cytokine" comes from a combination of two Greek words: "cyto" which means cell and "kinos" which means movement. Cytokines are cell signalling molecules that let cells communicate with one another during immune responses and promote cell migration to sites of inflammation, infection, and trauma.

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Chemokines, interferons, interleukins, lymphokines, and tumour necrosis factors are examples of cytokines, although hormones and growth factors are not (despite some overlap in the terminology). Endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and other stromal cells all produce cytokines, as do immune cells including macrophages, B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, and mast cells, as well as endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and various stromal cells. They act through cell surface receptors and are particularly essential in the immune system; cytokines control the maturation, development, and responsiveness of specific cell types, as well as the balance between humoral and cell-based immune responses. In intricate ways, certain cytokines boost or inhibit the function of other cytokines. Hormones, which are also crucial cell signalling chemicals, are not the same. Hormones are produced by certain types of cells and circulate in larger concentrations. Cytokines play a role in host immunological responses to infection, inflammation, trauma, sepsis, cancer, and reproduction in both health and illness.

Types of Cytokines 

The Different Types of Cytokines are Given Below:

  • Interferons

  • Chemokines

  • Interleukins (many interleukins are considered to be lymphokines)

  • TNF (tumour necrosis factor)

Interferons 

Proteins called interferons prevent viruses from reproducing. Interferons are released when a cell is attacked by a virus. This instructs other cells to raise their defences in order to prevent the virus from spreading. As a result, interferons prevent a virus from spreading. Natural killer T-cells are also activated by interferons. These cells aid in the virus's struggle by eliminating infected cells.

Chemokines 

Chemokines are a type of cytokine that attracts cells to an infection location. Chemotaxis is the ability of a cell to summon other cells by sending a chemical communication. This fact explains why this sort of cytokine is called chemokine: it causes chemotaxis. Chemokines are the battle's coordinators. When a foreign substance is discovered, for example, chemical commands are given to immune cells, which include diverse white blood cells. These cells then proceed to the threat's location in order to eradicate it.

Interleukins 

Proteins called interleukins govern immunological and inflammatory responses. They are mostly produced by white blood cells. Their role is to deliver messages to other white blood cells, informing them that it is time for them to report for duty. Interleukins is a simple name to remember because inter means between cells and leukins means leukocytes. Interleukins allow leukocytes to communicate with one another. Interleukins come in a variety of forms, each with a specific function in the immune system. Immune cells' development, maturation, and activation are among these functions.

Tumour Necrosis Factor

TNF (tumour necrosis factor) is a type of cytokine that has the ability to kill cells, including cancer cells. TNF is produced by a variety of cells, although macrophages produce the most. It has the ability to connect to cancer cells and destroy them once released.

Cytokine Receptors 

Cytokine receptors are glycoproteins on the cell surface that bind to cytokines and transmit their signals. These receptors allow cells to communicate with the extracellular environment by responding to signals generated nearby or elsewhere in the organism. Thus, the first binding of cytokines to their receptors is a critical process that occurs quickly, at extremely low cytokine concentrations, is almost always irreversible, and results in intracellular alterations that lead to a physiological response. The physiological response varies depending on the cytokine receptor and the cell, but it often involves gene expression, cell cycle alterations, and the release of mediators such as cytokines.


After going through the cytokines meaning it is very clear that it deals with the cell movement and signalling. The cloning of cytokine receptors revealed strong structural and functional conservation, justifying their classification as a superfamily of cytokine receptors. However, it is becoming obvious that structurally comparable subfamilies exist within this superfamily, with some receptors or receptor subunits being more linked to one another than to other members of the receptor superfamily. The TPO receptor (TPOR), for example, is more closely related to the EPO receptor (EPOR) and c than to other cytokine receptors.

Cytokine Therapy 

For illness control, cytokine treatment has been used as a natural alternative. Vaccines, pesticides, and antibiotics are typically used to control disease in food production animals. The widespread use of antibiotics and pesticides in livestock, on the other hand, has raised environmental and human health issues, particularly with regard to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria in the food chain. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently recommended meat producers to control the disease using environmentally acceptable alternatives. Cytokines, as natural mediators of the immune response, provide promising new treatment options. With the recent cloning of a number of cytokine genes, the use of cytokines is becoming more viable. Because the immune system of chickens is comparable to that of mammals, they make an appealing model system for studying the efficacy of cytokine treatment in disease control in intensive livestock.


In the treatment of patients with advanced cancers, cytokine therapy has proven to be a unique therapeutic technique. The goal of this sort of therapy is to modulate the immune response in order to develop the right immune effector cells in order to eliminate solid tumours. Cytokine therapy is used only after traditional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery have been exhausted. Various cytokine injection regimens have been used to eradicate solid tumours in melanoma and renal cell carcinoma patients. Clinical trials including the delivery of interferon-gamma, interferon-alpha, interleukin-2, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, and interleukin-12 have been conducted.


The relatively high level of toxicity associated with the administration of cytokines has stymied advances in cytokine therapy. Nausea, vomiting, fever/chills, lethargy, and headache are all common side effects. When three patients at a given dose level experience grade three toxicity, dose escalation for that cytokine comes to a halt. The preceding dose is marked as the cytokine's maximum tolerable dose. Determining the therapy schedule, on the other hand, is a challenge for clinicians. Some clinical trials have shown partial or complete tumour regression, providing optimism for discovering the right cytokine or combination of cytokines and dose level to effectively treat advanced malignancies without being too harmful to the patient.


The development of cytokine-based therapeutics has resulted from advances in our understanding of the role of cytokines in immunological and inflammatory illnesses. Specific cytokine therapies have been created with the goal of blocking, inhibiting, or restoring their activity. Gene therapy-delivered cytokines and antisense oligonucleotide treatment are also being investigated. Blocking or neutralising cytokine effect with monoclonal antibodies is now the most widely used strategy to cytokine treatment (mAbs). Inflammatory cytokine inhibitors, such as tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-, are among the most effective treatments authorised for clinical usage.

Do You Know?

What are Cytokines Sources? Many cell groups produce cytokines, although helper T cells (Th) and macrophages are the most common. During physiological and pathological processes, resident and recruited macrophages, mast cells, endothelial cells, and Schwann cells may generate cytokines in and by peripheral nerve tissue.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Function of Cytokines?

Answer. Cytokines are tiny soluble proteins that give instructions to immune and non-immune cells and mediate communication between them. A set of cytokines important for macrophages' role as innate immune system sentinels who mediate the transition from innate to adaptive immunity.

2. Are Cytokines Good or Bad?

Answer. Cytokines have a wide range of roles in the immune system's response to disease, and medications that modify their action have resulted in some remarkable treatments. When activating the immune system to fight a foreign infection or kill tumours, cytokines may be "beneficial."

3. What Cytokines Do in Inflammation?

Answer. Cytokines are proteins that control how the body reacts to infection, inflammation, and trauma. Some cytokines aggravate disease (proinflammatory cytokines), while others help to reduce inflammation and promote healing (anti-inflammatory cytokines) (anti-inflammatory cytokines).