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Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2013 Apr;44(2):114-20. doi: 10.1007/s12016-011-8296-5.

Type I interferons: beneficial in Th1 and detrimental in Th17 autoimmunity.

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Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.


In relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), type I interferon (IFN) is considered immuno-modulatory, and recombinant forms of IFN-β are the most prescribed treatment for this disease. However, within the RRMS population, 30-50% of MS patients are nonresponsive to this treatment, and it consistently worsens neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a disease once considered to be a form of RRMS. In contrast to RRMS, type I IFNs have been shown to have properties that drive the inflammatory pathologies in many other autoimmune diseases. These diseases include Sjögren's syndrome, system lupus erythematosus (SLE), neuromyelitis optica (NMO), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriasis. Historically, autoimmune diseases were thought to be driven by a TH1 response to auto-antigens. However, since the discovery of the TH17 in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), it is now generally thought that TH17 plays an important role in MS and all other autoimmune diseases. In this article, we will discuss recent clinical and basic research advances in the field of autoimmunity and argue that IFN-β and other type I IFNs are immuno-modulatory in diseases driven predominantly by TH1 but in contrast are inflammatory in diseases that have a predominant Th17 response.

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