Cytokines A Missing Link in Internal Diseases?
Initially, this project was supposed to focus on allergies and depression and the studies finding a positive correlation between the two, but as my research progressed, I discovered similar correlations between depression and chronic fatigue, then depression and central hypothyroidism, then allergies and inflammation, then inflammation and cancer, and then of many other diseases all caused by internal factors, and all of these linked by a single shared traitan overabundance of certain cytokines. Cytokines are a type of protein that is secreted by a variety of cells (primarily helper-T cells and macrophages) that serve a variety of purposes, such as inducing or inhibiting inflammation, regulating blood cell formation, and prompting the immune system. Not all cytokines cause the same reactiondifferent kinds of cytokines can even counter each other, so although confusing, use of cytokines’ specific names is imperative.
To best understand how all the above-mentioned diseases are connected, let us go through them one-by-one, starting with inflammation, and focusing on the role cytokines play. Scientists are continually discovering the impact inflammation has on the body; it plays a role in arthritis, PMS, heart disease, gingivitis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer for starters. Not that inflammation is all bad, it’s a necessary part of the immune system that helps heal injuries and prevent infection. A major factor in inflammation is cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2)an enzyme that produces cytokines. Cox-2 converts arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) into inflammation-inducing tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) and cytokines interleukin-1 (IL-1) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). IL-1 and TNF alpha then prompt the release of free radicals, which can destroy foreign objects, but also wreck havoc on the body, destroying cells and their DNA.
Meanwhile, a study conducted by Marshall, O’Hara, and Steinberg on allergies and fatigue and mood indicated patients with ragweed allergies reported during ragweed season higher general fatigue, mental fatigue, and feelings of depression, and reduced motivation, alertness, attentiveness, and pleasure than during winter (this is contrary to the general population which tends to feel more depressed during winter). However, they did not indicate higher levels of physical fatigue, which the researchers took to indicate an affect on the central nervous system by the allergic reaction. If this is true, it also explains why allergies can negatively impact scores on tests of mental activities. Rather than relying on the traditional explanation that the physical symptoms of allergies lead to feeling depressed because feeling unwell physically makes one feel unwell emotionally, they propose a different explanation.