Public Health Resources


Date of this Version



Nature Immunology VOL 20 JULY 2019, 775


U.S. government work


Ion Gresser, a virologist who transformed understanding of the roles of interferons, may be best remembered for showing that in mice, interferon-α (IFN-α) can produce acute and chronic disease. At the time Gresser began these studies, interferon was considered to be a selective antiviral substance, harmless to uninfected cells and organisms, and there was no indication that cytokines would play a role in pathogenesis. That belief was shattered with the 1975 Nature publication with the simple title “Lethality of interferon preparations for newborn mice.” Gresser subsequently demonstrated that antibodies to IFN-α can protect young mice from death caused by infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. This study can be considered a stepping-stone for the therapeutic application of antibodies to cytokines in the treatment of human disease, which was introduced much later and revolutionized the management of some autoimmune diseases.