Understanding the Cytokine Storm in Castleman Disease

Cytokine storms have been prominent in the news lately due to their role in COVID-19, but researchers have been studying their connection to Castleman disease for a long time. In fact, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered what happens at the cellular level of a cytokine storm. This discovery will not only advance understanding of the coronavirus, but it will help medical professionals develop new therapies for those with Castleman disease.

About Castleman Disease

Castleman disease is a rare disorder that is characterized by non-cancerous tumors and the enlargement of lymph nodes. Around 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this disorder, but the number could be much higher due to the number of people who are misdiagnosed with other lymphatic disorders or not diagnosed at all. This misdiagnosis occurs due to the similarity of symptoms; effects of Castleman disease include unexplained weight loss, enlargement of the spleen or liver, fever, weakness, night sweats, nerve damage, and rash. The cause of this disease is unknown, but doctors have associated it with the overprodution of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) protein.

About the Research

In order to understand these cytokine storms, researchers took blood samples from individuals with Castleman disease who were asymptomatic and individuals who were experiencing a flare of symptoms. Through these tests they discovered a cytokine, which is a inflammatory mediator, called Type I Interferons, that is highly active during flare-ups. Along with this, they found that a pathway, called JAK, is an essential mediator. Both of these findings coincide with prior research that have shown a cytokine called interleukin-6 and pathway called mTOR contribute to cytokine storms as well.

This knowledge allows for medical professionals to make better treatments for Castleman disease patients, as they know that they should focus on mTOR inhibitors. In fact, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are using this form of therapy in a clinical trial already.

Not only will these findings allow for better treatments to be made for Castleman disease, but they will help medical professionals understand COVID-19 and other conditions that are affected by cytokine storms.


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