Cytokines are small proteins with diverse functions. In immunity, there are several categories of cytokines important for immune cell growth, activation, and function.

  • Colony-stimulating factors are essential for cell development and differentiation.
  • Interferons are necessary for immune-cell activation. Type I interferons mediate antiviral immune responses, and type II interferon is important for antibacterial responses.
  • Interleukins, which come in over 30 varieties, provide context-specific instructions, with activating or inhibitory responses.
  • Chemokines are made in specific locations of the body or at a site of infection to attract immune cells. Different chemokines will recruit different immune cells to the site needed.
  • The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family of cytokines stimulates immune-cell proliferation and activation. They are critical for activating inflammatory responses, and as such, TNF blockers are used to treat a variety of disorders, including some autoimmune diseases.

Source: NIAID (NIH)1

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Cytokines: Non-antibody proteins secreted by inflammatory leukocytes and some non-leukocytic cells, that act as intercellular mediators. They differ from classical hormones in that they are produced by a number of tissue or cell types rather than by specialized glands. They generally act locally in a paracrine or autocrine rather than endocrine manner.2

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Cytokine Therapy: The use of cytokines in the treatment of any disease or disorder.3


Types may include:4

Types of Cytokine:

  • Cardiotrophin-1
  • Cerberus
  • Chemokine
  • Hematopoietic Growth Factor
  • Interferon
  • Interferon Lambda-3
  • Interferon Lambda-4
  • Interleukin
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein
  • Interleukin-28A
  • Interleukin-29
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor
  • Leukoregulin
  • Lymphokine
  • Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor
  • Oncostatin-M
  • Pre-B-Cell Colony-Enhancing Factor
  • Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Family Protein

Categories for Cytokines

Category of Cytokine Therapy:


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  1. Source: NIAID (NIH): topics/ immuneSystem/ Pages/ immuneCells.aspx
  2. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  3. Source: NCI Thesaurus
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.

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