Autoimmunity and Therapeutics

Autoimmunity is the system of  immune responses of an organism against its own cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmunity is present to some extent in everyone and is usually harmless. However, autoimmunity can cause a broad range of human illnesses, known collectively as autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases occur when there is progression from benign autoimmunity to pathogenic autoimmunity. This progression is determined by genetic influences as well as environmental triggers. Autoimmunity is evidenced by the presence of autoantibodies (antibodies directed against the person who produced them) and T cells that are reactive with host antigens.

Current treatments for allergic and autoimmune disease treat disease symptoms or depend on non-specific immune suppression. Treatment would be improved greatly by targeting the fundamental cause of the disease, that is the loss of tolerance to an otherwise innocuous antigen in allergy or self-antigen in autoimmune disease (AID). Much has been learned about the mechanisms of peripheral tolerance in recent years. We now appreciate that antigen presenting cells (APC) may be either immunogenic or tolerogenic, depending on their location, environmental cues and activation state

 

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