In the diverse universe of cytokines, signaling proteins secreted by our cells that affect nearly every biological process in the body, there is a specific subset that scientists pay extra attention to for their role in autoimmune diseases, cancer, and other conditions. 

What sets apart these "cytokines of interest" — 57 in total — from others is that they’re dependent on a pair of enzymes called Janus kinases (JAKs) to transmit their messages to a cell.  And in recent years, scientists have been uncovering how these cytokines and their corresponding JAKs drive key cellular processes, such as inflammation, immune cell function, and cell growth/differentiation, that lead to diseases. By targeting specific pairs of JAKs with medicines, scientists are finding novel ways to treat autoimmune disorders and certain cancers.  

Read on to learn more about how scientists are unraveling the intimate cytokine-JAK relationship to unlock novel treatments.