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Boxed bottle of interferon, London, England, 1981

Interferon is a protein produced naturally by the body to stop the growth of viruses in cells and fight infection. It can be produced from microorganisms using genetic engineering and is effective against certain cancers and multiple sclerosis (MS). This sample was produced for clinical trials to test how effective the treatment was before making it available on the market. The interferon is given by injection by a physician or self-administered by people with MS. The Wellcome Foundation Ltd was founded by Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) in 1924 to bring his research, pharmaceutical laboratories and museum collection under one board of control.

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    Techniques and Technologies:


    Glossary: genetic engineering

    The techniques involved in altering the characteristics of one organism by inserting genes from another organism into its DNA.

    Glossary: virus

    A tiny particle made up of DNA/RNA and a protein coat. Viruses infect animals, plants, and micro-organisms and cause many diseases, including the common cold, influenza, measles, chickenpox, AIDS, polio and rabies. Many viral diseases can be controlled by means of vaccines.

    Glossary: cancer

    Any cancerous tumour. It arises from the abnormal and uncontrolled division of cells which then invade and destroy the surrounding tissues. Cancer cells spread and can form secondary tumours some distance from the original.

    Glossary: interferon

    A substance produced by cells infected with a virus. It has the ability to stop further growth of the virus.

    Glossary: multiple sclerosis

    A chronic disease of the nervous system affecting young and middle-aged adults. Multiple sclerosis (MS) can lead to almost any brain-related symptom, such as loss of feeling or involuntary movement.