The cachexia syndrome is characterised by progressive weight loss and depletion of lean body mass and has long been recognised as a poor prognostic sign. Whilst the clinical features of the wasting process are readily apparent, its pathogenesis is complex and poorly understood. There is increasing evidence that the immune system, in particular inflammatory cytokines, may play an important role in the development of cachexia. The cytokine considered to be the most relevant to this process is tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF), although other mediators such as interleukin (IL) 1, IL-6 and interferon gamma have also been implicated. Apoptosis represents a potential pathway by which wasting can occur in chronic diseases. Cytokines and their corresponding receptors are known to be important regulators of cell death. Apoptosis has been demonstrated in the skeletal muscle of patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) and is thought to be partly responsible for the significant impairment of functional work capacity associated with this condition. An understanding of the mechanisms that regulate muscle protein breakdown is essential for the development of strategies for treating or even preventing muscle cachexia in patients. It is the aim of this article to review the role of inflammatory cytokines, particularly TNF, in the pathogenesis of wasting and also the potential for anti-cytokine therapy. Although this review will concentrate predominantly on the syndrome of CHF, other chronic illnesses such as liver disease, cancer, and sepsis will also be discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine