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Role of Cytokines in Neurological Disorders

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The balance between cytokines with pro- and anti-inflammatory effects contributes to the course of the Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. TNFα seems to be an important factor in the cascade of events leading to demyelination and even axonal damage. During the acute phase, the serum concentrations of TNFα and IL-6 are elevated while anti-inflammatory cytokines are upregulated in the recovery phase.

Cytokines also have a key role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis and most data suggest that this effect is mediated by myelin-specific CD4 T lymphocytes secreting Th type 1 cytokines. However, several different immune cells including B lymphocytes, CD8 T lymphocytes and NK T lymphocytes are also involved in the pathogenesis.

Both Th1 and Th2 lymphocytes and cytokines probably participate in the development of myasthenia gravis (MG). The IFNα production is probably related to the severity of the disease, with clinical improvement associated with decreased production. The serum levels of IL-18 are significantly elevated in MG, with highest concentrations in patients with generalized disease.

The immune system may be involved in the pathogenesis of AD by the effect of microglia, which can induce microglial activation with subsequent release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In parkinsonism, there is evidence of chronic inflammation in the substantia nigra and striatum. Activated microglia, producing proinflammatory cytokines, surround the degenerating dopaminergic neurons and may contribute to the dopaminergic neuron loss. Studies of patients with epilepsy and animals with experimentally induced seizures indicate that cytokines may also influence the electrophysiological properties of neurons.
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Keywords: cidp; cytokines; epilepsy; guillain-barre syndrome; multiple sclerosis; myasthenia gravis; parkinsonism

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Neurology, University of Bergen, Norway.

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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