Currently known substances of cytokines

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

The immune system is a complex network of cells that defend the body against attacks by "foreign," or "non-self," invaders.

This network is the body's main defense against disease.

Different disease may develop when the immune system is not functioning adequately. Biological therapies are designed to stimulate or enhance the immune system's responses.

Immune system cells include the following:

Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell. Types of lymphocytes include B cells, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells.

B cells (B lymphocytes) secrete antibodies (immunoglobulins), proteins that attach to foreign substances, called antigens.

T cells (T lymphocytes) directly attack foreign cells. T cells also regulate the immune response by signaling other immune system defenders. T cells work primarily by producing proteins called lymphokines.

Natural Killer cells (NK cells) produce powerful chemicals that bind and kill any foreign invader.

Monocytes are white blood cells that swallow and digest microscopic organisms and particles in a process known as phagocytosis. Monocytes can also travel into tissue and become macrophages and perform the same function of engulfing and digesting foreign particles.

Cells in the immune system secrete two types of proteins: antibodies and cytokines. Antibodies respond to antigens by binding with antigens. Specific antibodies match specific antigens, fitting together much the way a key fits a lock. Cytokines are substances produced by some immune system cells to communicate with other cells. Types of cytokines include lymphokines, interferons, and interleukins, among others.

In rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory forms of arthritis the two major cytokines that seem to play a large role are tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 1. Many other cytokines have important effects. Examples include interleukin 6, which is the cytokine blocked by the drug, Actemra. Other interleukins may play an important role in RA and they are currently undergoing study.

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