Interferon: A group of proteins that are produced by cells in response to viral infections. Your body produces these cells to interfere with viruses that are replicating. They were first discovered in 1957.

There are two types of these cells produced by your white blood cells and fibroblasts, which are connective tissue cells. The two types are alpha and beta. Another type is gamma.

The gamma cell is produced by T cells which have been activated. T cells are a substance in your body that actually cause inflammation. When researchers tried using the gamma type to treat MS, the disease got worse instead of better.

The beta group reduces the inflammation caused by the gamma cells. There are three interferon based treatments currently used to treat multiple sclerosis. All three are made from the beta types.

Three kinds of treatments

  • Interferon Beta-1a was the first to be approved by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration). It is used to treat relapsing forms of MS. It's sold under the brand name, Avonex.

    It slows the progression of MS by reducing lesions in the brain. These lesions show up on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests. Avonex also lessens the amount of relapses (sometimes called exacerbations or flare-ups).

    Scientists make this from the same amino acids that are made in your body naturally. When used to treat MS - in this case through a once-a-week injection - there is less inflammation.

    One study began treatment when patients had only had one incidence of demyelination. In these cases, the studies showed that the second incident took much longer to happen. A definite diagnoses of MS didn't come until much later.

    To read more about Avonex, click the link. You will find out information about the side-effects, also.

  • The next interferon, Beta-1b, was approved by the FDA in 1993. It's brand name is Betaseron. It was approved for relapsing-remitting ms and again in 2003 for other "relapsing forms of MS". This would be secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis.

    This type of cell helps to stop your body's immune system from attacking the myelin. It has been shown to:

    • lessen exacerbations
    • lengthen time between exacerbations
    • stop new lesions from forming

    Unlike Avonex, which is an intramuscular (in the muscle) injection, Betaseron is subcutaneous or under the skin. And instead of a once-a-week injection, you would take it every other day. To read more about Betaseron, click the link.

  • The third interferon was approved in 2002 by the FDA. It is called Rebif and is also a Beta-1a form like Avonex.

    It is also made from the same human proteins as Avonex. It basically performs the same way.

There's more to this story. Click here to go to - Part 2.

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