The Biological Characteristics of Cytokines

Cytokines are special proteins of the human immune system. These substances communicate between cells to perform certain functions.
The Biological Characteristics of Cytokines

Last update: 21 May, 2021

Cytokines are substances which enable cells to interact with one another. As you may already know, living beings are a complex set of organs, tissues, and cells. In fact, there are many different ones in human beings and they’re all highly specialized. Mainly so they can properly perform their functions.

Nevertheless, cytokines are proteins made by cells involved in the immune system. They’re a heterogeneous group of proteins with different functions.

Cytokines are secreted by cells and exert their action on other cells. Thus, they act as mediators and trigger various cellular responses. Today’s article will explain everything you need to know about them.

How do cytokines act?

As we mentioned above, cytokines are proteins made by certain cells. We also said they mediate interactions between the cells of the immune system — lymphoid and inflammatory cells. They also act as mediators of hematopoietic cells.

What these proteins do is bind to receptors present on cell membranes and activate a series of intracellular reactions. The purpose is to activate certain genes. Mainly for the cell to produce a response to that stimulus.

Cytokines production is transient. That is, they only exist for a short period of time. These proteins can act on other cells, but they can also act on the cell that released them.

A cell network.
Cytokines send signals between cells in the form of proteins.

What’s their function?

Cytokines comprise various types of proteins that act differently. They may exert their function by either stimulating or decreasing the response of the immune system.

First of all, some of these substances help immune system cells differentiate into one type or another. Likewise, they allow them to mature as they should in order to fulfill their function.

In addition, they act as an efficient communication system between all the elements of the immune system. For example, they make it possible for B cells to specialize as plasma cells and secrete antibodies. Antibodies are the molecules that enable us to fight infections.

Furthermore, cytokines control the hematopoietic processes that take place in the bone marrow. These processes consist of the formation of the different cell types that form the blood. For example, red blood cells and white blood cells.

Also, these proteins are vital for inflammation processes to take place. Inflammation is a defense mechanism of the body against any aggression. Thus, cytokines stimulate wound healing as well.

A group of cytokine receptors.
Cytokines bind to cell receptors to trigger responses.

How useful are cytokines as a treatment?

Researchers recently discovered they can create cytokines in their labs. In fact, they can stimulate the immune system with them and help the body fight certain diseases. Cancer and infections, for example.

The development of drugs based on cytokines is a bit complex but is leading to excellent results. Some physicians use cytokines to treat some anemias and viral infections like hepatitis.

The fact is that these substances are important to our body, both in cell development and the proper functioning of the immune system.

Finally, most scientists are confident that cytokines will be a basic pillar of treatment for diseases such as cancer or HIV. This is precisely why studying them represents a milestone for the future generations of medicine.

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