Brussels, 19 February 2002
A breakthrough in understanding interferon production has been made by scientists from the EMBL (European molecular biology laboratory) in Italy.
Looking to build on the work of scientists 50 years ago, who found that cells infected by viruses secreted a protein (interferon) which protected other cells from infection, the scientists found that the accepted theory on interferon production could not be fully ratified. This decreed that cells in the body sensed a few starter interferon molecules and this served to activate much greater production.
However, in tests with mice, the scientists, Ulrich Kalinke and Winfried Barchet, found that production of interferon could actually be traced back to a particular type of cell in the spleen called dendritic cells. The discovery means that the use of interferon, which has wide applications as a natural response to infections, may have to be rethought. It also provides additional information on how the human body's immune system works.
The full findings of the EMBL research are available in issue four of the Journal of experimental medicine.
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