Plasma cytokines half-life

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.

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A question about the half life of cytokines is difficult to answer because there are so many cytokines and they all behave differently.

For example, two of the more common cytokines of interest are TNF-a and IL-1. The production of TNF-a and IL-1 is episodic. Macrophages, when stimulated, release TNF-a and IL-1 in a single burst over several hours and then become tolerant to repeated or continued exposure.

This development of tachyphylaxis (the rapid appearance of a progressive decrease in response following repetitive administration of a physiologically active substance) remains a hallmark cytokine response to exposure to bacterial cell products. It's difficult to detect the levels because of this phenomenon.

The plasma half-lives of TNF-a and IL-10 are generally less than 60 minutes, and random sampling techniques are probably too imprecise to pick up these bursts of productions.

More importantly, there are inhibitors and antagonists in the blood of patients, which interfere with the immunoassays or bioassays used to quantitate TNF-a and IL-1.

This becomes extremely important because the presence of these inhibitors or antagonists in the plasma may be used to document the presence of these pro-inflammatory cytokines indirectly.

As better assays are developed, it will become easier to monitor plasma levels of cytokines.

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