Autoimmunity and allergy
The adaptive immune system with its T-cells and antibody-producing B-cells changes throughout your entire life. In addition, we have a range of innate or native defence factors ready to quickly repel threats from the environment.
Photo credit: Rob Hainer
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system tries to neutralize or eliminate the body's own cells or tissues. Symptoms then arise as a consequence of inflammation and/or a decline in cell or organ function. Examples of autoimmune diseases are certain rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), hormonal diseases such as diabetes and goiter, and neurological diseases such as MS (multiple sclerosis).
Allergies in everyday speech most often mean “Type I allergies” (atopic allergies) where IgE antibodies are aimed at certain foodstuffs, pollen, cat dander, et cetera. When a person with such an allergy is exposed to these substances (allergens), symptoms arise, for example in the form of runny eyes/nose (‘hayfever’), rash (urticaria) or asthma. Autoimmune diseases and allergies are, as a rule, chronic conditions, which can cause significant impairment of function and can sometimes be life-threatening. Even if these conditions can now often be partially treated due to advances in immunology and inflammation medicine, much research remains before we can gain full understanding of the underlying mechanisms and obtain cures.