CytAN: Cytokines in individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa

Posted 31/10/2018


This project aims to understand the role of the immune system, specifically cytokines, in anorexia nervosa.

What is the purpose of this research?

Our brain and behaviour are influenced by the immune system. Cytokines are important messenger molecules in the immune system. There are many different types of cytokines with different roles. They can be measured in the blood and can tell us a lot about inflammation in the body. Research has shown that individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa tend to have elevated levels of certain cytokines in their blood. However, very few cytokines have been measured and there are a number of cytokines that are important for the immune system and the brain that have never been measured in individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. Also, we do not know whether cytokine levels are different in individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa who have different clinical characteristics. These include factors such as illness duration, eating disorder symptom severity, and severity of co-existing disorders (e.g. depression). Therefore, in the current study, we want to measure a large range of cytokines to find out if the level of cytokines differs between healthy control participants and individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. We also want to investigate whether cytokine levels are related to certain clinical characteristics. This study will help us to understand if cytokines are involved in the underlying biology of anorexia nervosa. As there are medications available to influence cytokine production, cytokine levels and cytokine effects, our research may lead to the development of future treatments to help with anorexia nervosa. 

Who can take part?

Females with a current diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa and no chronic or acute inflammatory conditions.

  • Females between the ages of 18 and 65
  • Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa
  • BMI less than 18.5kg/m2
  • Fluent in English
  • No current acute or chronic inflammatory conditions e.g. asthma, Chron’s disease, arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease.

What does the study involve?

Once you have read and understood the information sheet you will have a brief phone call with a researcher to check your eligibility. If you are eligible you will arrange a 1.5 hour research session at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London (London, SE5 8AF). In this session, you will complete a short questionnaire pack, have your height, weight and body composition measured, and you will provide blood samples. You will be reimbursed £15 for your time. All data will be kept anonymous.

A questionnaire includes a question about your lowest ever weight, which is compulsory. When being weighted you will not need to see your weight if you choose not to.

How can you take part?

If you have any questions or are interested in taking part, please contact the researchers listed below. They will send you the participant information sheet and arrange the screening and baseline visits if you wish to take part.


Olivia Patsalos, Research Assistant, King’s College London, 0207 848 5977

Bethan Dalton, PhD Student, King’s College London, 0207 848 0183

King's College London