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Cytokines include chemokines, lymphokines, and monokines.
Cells of the immune system communicate with one another by releasing and responding to chemical messengers called cytokines. These proteins are secreted by immune cells and act on other cells to coordinate appropriate immune responses. Cytokines include a diverse assortment of interleukins, interferons, and growth factors.
Some cytokines are chemical switches that turn certain immune cell types on and off. Scientists are studying cytokines to see whether they can also be used to treat diseases. The cytokine, interleukin 2 (IL-2), triggers the immune system to produce T cells. IL-2’s immunity-boosting properties have traditionally made it a promising treatment for several diseases such as cancer, hepatitis C, and HIV infection and AIDS.
One group of cytokines chemically attracts specific cell types. These so-called chemokines are released by cells at a site of injury or infection and call other immune cells to the region to help repair the damage or fight off the invader. Chemokines often play a key role in inflammation and are a promising target for new drugs to help regulate immune responses.