What Role Do Cytokines Play in the Body?

As the founder of the Institute of Neurological Recovery, Dr. Edward Tobinick continues a nearly 40-year-long career in medicine. Cytokines account for one of Dr. Edward Tobinick’s top areas of interest, and he has written numerous articles on the subject.

Cytokines are cell-signaling molecules that assist in a body’s healing by allowing cells to communicate with one another. They bolster the immune system by directing cells to areas of infection, trauma, and inflammation. Considered regulators of the innate and adaptive immune response, cytokines also perform as switches that can activate or deactivate immune cells. One type of cytokine promotes the creation of T cells, which makes it a potential treatment for a number of immunological diseases.

Found in peptides, proteins, and glycoproteins, the cytokine family includes interleukins, interferons, and other molecules. However, the lack of a standard classification system has led to overlaps between agents that could be marked as cytokines or hormones. A major difference between hormones and cytokines is their point of origin. While hormones tend to come from a single gland, cytokines can be formed at numerous locations. Some types can be produced from practically every cell possessing a nucleus. Additionally, a cytokine’s effectiveness may be greater than a hormone’s because it can alter individual cells as well as the entire body.