Cytokines are proteins produced by white blood cells. They act as messengers between the cells and the brain to alert the body to certain disturbances which may call for an immune response. Factors which may elicit cytokine production include illnesses and conditions that the immune system will need to fight off. There may be many factors which can potentially affect cytokine production.
Infections, either bacterial or viral, can both increase cytokine production dramatically. White blood cells release cytokines into the bloodstream to alert the body so more T-cells can be produced and released to fight off the infection. The additional proteins in the blood are what cause the spike in temperature associated with infection.
Other types of infections, such as those caused by Candida yeast, may also cause increased cytokine production. In the same manner certain cancers and other conditions may also cause a spike in immune response within the body. This is one reason an unresolved condition may cause troubling symptoms like inflammation, fatigue, and fever.
Those with arthritis and other autoimmune conditions often have higher than normal levels of cytokine production because their immune systems begin responding and attacking the body itself. Rather than helping the body combat disease, this response tends to cause chronic pain and swelling in the joints where inflammation takes hold. There is no known cure for this condition, but pain can be managed with certain medications.
Researchers are looking for ways to control cytokine production in the laboratory. They hope that somebody they will be able to create cytokines that will trigger an immune response which specifically targets certain infectious diseases; primarily human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By doing this, they would be able to develop more efficient drugs to treat the condition, and possibly develop a cure.
Cytokines also help to regulate certain hormones in the body, specifically growth hormones in the endocrine system. They help communicate with the brain to ensure that proper growth and develop occur. Too much or too little growth can cause serious health side effects.
A lack of white blood cells may have a major impact on cytokine production. Because cells manufacture this all-important protein, any conditions which kills or inhibits white blood cell growth or development may lower cytokine levels. This would result in greatly reduced immune function, leaving a person almost defenseless against disease or infection. Certain illnesses may cause a reduction in white blood cells as well as certain treatments for disease. One example is chemotherapy, which kills both cancerous and healthy cells.