A cytokine. Inteferons are a large group of proteins that elicit a virus-unspecific antiviral activity. That is to say, when released into the bloodstream, they interact with other cells and help them prepare for a wide spectrum of viral attack. The interferon binds to specific cell surface receptors which then cause gene activation of antiviral systems. They can also kill tumor cells through antiproliferative mechanisms. Finally they can often interact with the immune system to modulate infection response.

Antiviral activity

The inhibition of viral DNA replication, which is necessary for the virus to multiply inside the cell before breaking the cell open (lysogenesis) and infecting neighboring cells.

Antiproliferative activity

There are several ways that interferon can affect tumor cells, either by cytostatic (stopping cell growth) or cytotoxic (killing cells) mechanisms:

Interferon can sometimes even cause a reversion in the malignant cells, bringing them back to normal.

Immunomodulatory activity

  • induction of expression of other cytokines
  • activation of macrophages, which digest infected cells
  • activation of lymphocytes
  • modulation of tumor-associated antigen expression

Inteferons are clinically very interesting because of their antiviral and growth-inhibition potential.

When I was little, I had bad respiratory infections and was actually treated with interferon, it was dropped into my nose and injected into my arm. That stuff does wonders!!! They obtained it from donor blood and it saved my life. However, this was over in Russia and I am not sure if the FDA aproved it's use in the States yet.

Any of several glycoproteins that help the body fight off viral infections. During a viral invasion, infected cells produce three kinds of interferon (alpha, beta, and gamma) which circulate in the blood stream and help make uninfected cells immune to the attack.

Interferon was discovered in 1957 by Alick Isaacs.

Interferon alpha is the main type produced by the white blood cells. It is also manufactured pharmacologically to treat hairy-cell leukemia.


From the BioTech Dictionary at http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/. For further information see the BioTech homenode.

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