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What Is Autoimmunity?

Essay by   •  September 22, 2016  •  Essay  •  376 Words (2 Pages)  •  880 Views

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This report will look into autoimmunity as a whole and the key aspects behind it, such as the immunological processes that take place in autoimmune diseases. The main autoimmune disease that is the focus of this study is multiple sclerosis (MS). This report will discuss the background of the disease, the risk factors and mechanisms behind its diagnosis and the immunology behind its development and progression.

The report includes the discussion of the characteristics of not only autoimmune diseases in general, but also specifically the traits associated with MS, such as demyelination and chronic inflammation leading to the formation of lesions. The prevalence of autoimmune diseases will be discussed, along with environmental factors, sex differences and general genetic susceptibility that can increase an individual’s risk of getting an autoimmune disease. Finally, treatments and potential for cure will be discussed, highlighted by the key research being undertaken in order to distinguish between symptoms and the progression of disease, especially in children.

What is autoimmunity?

Autoimmunity is the body’s immune response against itself, which target the cells and tissues of the organism through an inflammatory reaction. This response against one’s self leads to diseases, termed autoimmune diseases, and these diseases occur due to a diminishing of tolerance in the immune system to autoreactive immune cells (1). A great amount of diversity is present in the immune system, through recombination associated with the T cell receptors (TCR) and antibodies. This diversity leads to the creation of antigen-binding regions which become reactive to self-molecules (1).

Through this diversity, a whole range of tolerance mechanisms have learned to distinguish between self and nonself in order to inhibit the growth and development of autoreactive lymphocytes (1). However, in autoimmune diseases, it is this decline in immunological tolerance which leads to the immune system targeting and responding to its own cells and tissues. There are theories on how these self-reacting lymphocytes can be stopped from reacting to itself, and they include clonal deletion, which is to do with the destruction of self-reactive lymphocytes (1). Clonal anergy is another one, where self-reactive lymphocytes are eliminated through decreasing the amount of cells in the immune response and also through inhibition of self-reactive lymphocytes by T lymphocytes or natural killer (NK) cells (1).

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