Interferon receptors, also known as cytokine receptors, are an important part of the immune system. When the body is attacked by a virus, it begins to defend itself at a cellular level with cell-secreted proteins called interferon. The interferon receptor is activated by the protein and causes the cell to produce interferon response genes as a reaction to the infection. These interferon response genes are then passed on to new cells, creating cells that are resistant to or immune to a particular viral infection.
When the body's immune system is functioning correctly, the interferon receptor is the primary defense against disease. The first response to infection is interferon production. This response to infection and the activation of the interferon receptor to create disease resistant cells is the basis of immunity and the science behind immunizations.
Interferon was the first discovered by a pair of biologists, Alick Isaacs and Jean Lindenmann, in 1957. They identified interferon while researching the influenza virus in the infected cells of chicks and named this cytokine interferon because it interfered with the virus and prevented its further growth. Although the exact biological process was not fully understood at the time of interferon's discovery, later research revealed the presence of the interferon receptor and its ability to protect the cell from viral infection.
Every interferon receptor serves the same basic purpose in regard to protecting the body from infection, but there are several types of interferon receptors that can be activated only by a certain type of interferon. An interferon receptor will always belong to either the alpha/beta interferon receptor group or the gamma interferon receptor group, which corresponds to the respective interferon types. The alpha/beta interferon group is considered a viral type, and the gamma group is considered an immunity type. From these two groups, there are numerous subdivisions that pinpoint exactly what type of interferon will activate the interferon receptor and cause a cellular response to infection in the body.
Despite advances in molecular research and biology, the exact function and bio-chemical processes involved with interferon receptors and immunity were still largely unaccounted for as of early 2011. Further studies have been conducted into the processes that are used by interferon receptors to respond to viral threats and protect the body from infection. Molecular biologists and biochemists have been hopeful that the keys to eradicating major diseases and genetic disorders could be found in research and modification of cytokines and interferon receptors.