Cytokine Therapy 101

Cytokines: small secreted proteins released by cells that have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells.

Cytokines, from the Greek cyto meaning “cell” and kinos meaning “movement”, are tiny protein molecules secreted by cells that communicate with other cells. Cytokines may be classified as peptides, proteins, exosomes, secretomes or glycoproteins. Sophisticated and profound complexes of cytokines found in our bodies are involved in cellular communications. They are nano-sized molecules working as cross-cell messengers and channels. It might help to think of cytokines as the body’s mobile phone system.


They act in three main ways in the cell-to-cell communication system:

  1. The first is through endocrine action. This allows hormones to affect cells in a distant area of our bodies through blood circulation. This is similar to our body’s own endocrine system. For instance, our pituitary gland affects cells in many different parts of the body.
  2. The second action is called paracrine action, which means that the cytokines affect only neighbouring cells.
  3. The third way is autocrine action, meaning that the substance secreted affects only the cell from which it was secreted. Interestingly, stem cells work in a very similar fashion. One should think of cytokines as the architects of cell repair. The repair occurs mainly at a cellular level and within the extracellular matrix.


Cytokines can be the difference between the body’s success and failure. An imbalance of cytokines is at the root of most diseases as the cells are either lacking the correct signals to keep healthy, or are receiving the wrong signals. Cytokine therapy involves administering external cytokines to the body. It is one of the new exciting fields in medicine which, like stem cells, could dramatically change the face of medicine and treatment protocols to support a variety of conditions.


Potential Benefits of Cytokine Therapy:

  • Anti-aging effects1,2
  • Improved energy levels: less fatigue and combats stress
  • Improved sleep quality: deeper and longer sleep
  • Improved immune system regulation, including potential for cancer3,4 and autoimmune diseases5
  • Improved skin condition6
  • Improved sex drive and function
  • Improved blood sugar levels
  • Improved liver function
  • Pain reduction in (injured) joints7, bones, muscles or other inflamed body parts8,9
  • Improved recovery: faster wound-healing speed
  • Improved hair quality and reduced hair loss
  • Reduced mood swings
  • Improved memory


  1. Rea, M., Gibson, D.S., McGilligan, V. et al. Age and Age-Related Diseases: Role of Inflammation Triggers and Cytokines. Immunol. (2019)
  2. Borg, M., Brincat, S., Camilleri, G. et al. The role of cytokines in skin aging. 2013;16(5):514-21. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2013.802303
  3. Ichim, T.E., Zhong, Z., Kaushal, S. et al.Exosomes as a tumor immune escape mechanism: possible therapeutic implications. J Transl Med 6, 37 (2008).
  4. Ardolino, Michele et al. Cytokine treatment in cancer immunotherapy. Oncotarget 6,23 (2015): 19346-7. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.5095
  5. Donnelly RP, Young HA, Rosenberg AS. An overview of cytokines and cytokine antagonists as therapeutic agents. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009;1182:1‐ doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05382.
  6. Cho, B.S., Kim, J.O., Ha, D.H. et al.Exosomes derived from human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells alleviate atopic dermatitis. Stem Cell Res Ther 9, 187 (2018).
  7. Li Z, Wang Y, Xiao K, Xiang S, Li Z, Weng X: Emerging Role of Exosomes in the Joint Diseases. Cell Physiol Biochem 2018;47:2008-2017. doi: 10.1159/000491469
  8. Kopf, M., Bachmann, M. & Marsland, B. Averting inflammation by targeting the cytokine environment. Nat Rev Drug Discov9, 703–718 (2010).
  9. Zhang JM, An J. Cytokines, inflammation, and pain. Int Anesthesiol Clin. 2007;45(2):27‐37. doi:10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e
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