The Interferons are proteins natural that help the immune system to fight infections and other illnesses such as cancer . These proteins are produced mainly by white blood cells (leukocytes) and other cells in the body of vertebrate animals, but they can also be created in the laboratory to be used as a treatment for different diseases.

What is interferon for?

Interferon works as a signaling protein and participates in communication between cells, to respond to the presence of pathogens. In general, it works to fight viral infections and regulate the immune system .

Interferon serves to:

  • Fight viruses
  • Fight bacteria
  • Fight parasites
  • Fight cancer cells

When a cell is infected by one of these four agents, it will secrete interferons , activating the defenses in the cells near it. Interferons, as their name says, will interfere, causing the following reactions, depending on the agent that invades the body:

  • Interrupt the replication of viruses.
  • Activate cells of the immune system, such as macrophages.
  • Regulate the increase in the population of bacteria.
  • Causing symptoms such as fever, muscle pain and flu-like symptoms, to destabilize the body for a moment and thus change the conditions in which the pathogens were developing, to eliminate them.

In cancer treatment, interferon helps stop cancer cells from multiplying and some of them from being destroyed.

Functions of interferons

All IFNs are a type of cytokines or cytokines , which are proteins that are responsible for:

  • In the cells that produce them, regulate their functions on other types of cells.
  • Intercellular communication (between cells)
  • Induce the activation of membrane receptors
  • Cell proliferation functions
  • Cell differentiation functions
  • Chemotaxis (direction of movement according to the concentration of chemicals in the environment of cells, such as glucose, which is food for them).
  • Cell growth
  • Modulation of immunoglobulin secretion

Types of interferon

There are three types of interferons, whose names are shortened to IFN:

  • Type I.
  • Type II
  • Type III

And of which Type I and Type II are more relevant in terms of their action in the body.

Interferones (IFN) Type I

These interferons are produced in the body when an invasion of a virus is detected . They are produced by cells called fibroblasts and monocytes . Its function, once secreted in the body, is to activate the molecules that prevent the virus from generating and replicating its Ribonucleic Acids (RNA) and Deoxyribonucleic Acids (DNA).

Type I interferons found in humans include: IFN-α (alpha), IFN-β (beta), IFN-ε (epsilon), IFN-κ (kappa), and IFN-ω (omega). Laboratory-generated IFN-α (alpha) are used to treat infections such as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. IFN-β (beta) are used to treat multiple sclerosis.

Interferones (IFN) Type II

Of these, those found in the human body are IFN-γ (gamma). When secreted by type 1 helper lymphocytes, they block the multiplication of type 2 helper lymphocytes.

Diseases that are treated with interferons

Interferons are used as an adjunct to traditional methods to treat a variety of diseases, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder.
  • Various cancers, such as leukemias and lymphomas.
  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

When interferons are used in systemic therapy, they are delivered by intramuscular injection. Intramuscular or subcutaneous injection of interferons is generally well tolerated.

Recommended doses of interferons

The doses of IFN that are going to be managed for the treatment of diseases will depend on each disease and its progress in the patient.

Adverse effects of interferons

The most common harmful side effects of IFN therapy are:

  • Increase in body temperature
  • Sick feeling
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Headache or headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Depression

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical opinion. Consult a doctor.


Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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