Researchers found increased serum levels of specific cytokines in patients with immunotherapy-naïve anti-acetylcholine receptor (AChR) subtype generalized myasthenia gravis (MG), as published in BMC Immunology. They used ultrasensitive measurement to detect the increased levels of serum IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-12p70.

“In the era of rapid development for biologics and small molecular drugs, precise characterization of cytokines in MG remained as an unmet need for monitoring immune dynamics in therapeutic response and future therapeutic investigations,” the authors explained.

“Therefore, our study aims to characterize the serum levels of cytokines with very low concentration in generalized AChR positive MG patients.”

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Between February 2017 and March 2020, the research team enrolled 228 patients with generalized MG from a single center in Shanghai, 152 of whom were treatment-naïve with positive anti-AChR antibodies, and 76 age-matched healthy controls.

They employed ultrasensitive single-molecule arrays (SIMOA) to detect trace amounts of IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, and IL-12p70 cytokines in serum. The results showed that the cytokine levels for all types were significantly higher in the patients than in the controls and that the levels varied by disease severity, age of onset, and prior disease duration.

The authors cautioned that different assays can report different levels of cytokines and that additional comparisons between ultrasensitive measurement approaches in future studies will help determine their true levels.

Furthermore, the cost and limited availability of SIMOA will restrict its use in the clinic. However, the detection of increased levels of these cytokines in the patients might help stratify them with generalized MG in future clinical trials.


Huan X, Zhao R, Song J, et al. Increased serum IL-2, IL-4, IL-5 and IL-12p70 levels in AChR subtype generalized myasthenia gravis. BMC Immunol. Published online May 27, 2022. doi:10.1186/s12865-022-00501-8