SITE VISIT: Sorting Out Cytokines

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Science  19 May 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5469, pp. 1131
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5469.1131b

Cytokines are small proteins that facilitate everything from wound healing to fighting viruses to killing tumors. As triggers for biochemical processes, they're a lot like hormones, except that cytokines are made by cells all over the body rather than specific organs. There are hundreds of them, often with cryptic names like ABCD-1 and Ck-beta-8. A single cytokine can do many jobs, and different cytokines can perform the same function. Confused? Then check out COPE: Cytokines Online Pathfinder Encyclopaedia.

COPE “is a first-aid kit for those people who come into the field and are hopelessly overwhelmed,” says Horst Ibelgaufts of the University of Munich, who built the site from his printed reference on cytokines. Once accustomed to the somewhat clunky layout—on each page, you have to scroll past a screen of ads and journal links—visitors will find over 6600 hyperlinked entries. Arranged alphabetically, they define the function of each known cytokine and cover topics ranging from hematology to apoptosis, bioassays, and recombinant cytokines. Irked by “acronymania,” Ibelgaufts has also tucked in a few humorous entries, including TGIF factor, whose action, we're told, is similar to that of endorphins.

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