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Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2004 Jun;106(3):255-8.

IFN-beta1a and IFN-beta1b have different patterns of influence on cytokines.

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Department of Neurology, University Clinical Centre Ljubljana, Zaloska 7, 1525 Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Multiple sclerosis is characterized by elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines produced by Th1 cells and decreased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines produced by Th2 cells. IFN-beta treatment shifts the immune response from the Th1 to Th2 pattern, thus enhancing the production of anti-inflammatory Th2 cytokines such as IL-4, IL-10, and decreasing the production of proinflammatory Th1 cytokines such as IFN-gamma. To determine which IFN-beta has the stronger immunomodulatory effect we compared the levels of IL-4, IL-10, and IFN-gamma of 12 relapsing-remiting MS patients treated with IFN-beta1b (Betaferon) with those of 10 patients treated with IFN-beta1a (Avonex). There were no statistically significant differences in duration of disease, number of relapses before and during treatment, and in EDSS after 2 years of treatment. After 1 year of treatment the concentration of IFN-gamma was significantly lower in the Betaferon group, and concentrations of IL-4 and IL-10 were significantly higher in the Avonex group. It appears that IFN-beta1b has a downregulatory effect on both Th1 and Th2 cytokines, while IFN-beta1a causes a shift of the cytokine profile toward the Th2 phenotype. These two IFN have different influences on the pattern of cytokines in MS: IFN-beta1a enhances the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and IL-10 and IFN-beta1b decreases the production of the proinflammatory cytokine IFN-gamma.

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