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How infection can trigger autoimmune disease
Date:11/9/2012

Australian scientists have confirmed a 'weak link' in the immune system identifying the exact conditions under which an infection can trigger an autoantibody response, a process not clearly understood until now.

We have known for many years that autoimmune diseases such as rheumatic fever and Guillain-Barr syndrome (where the body makes antibodies that attack the heart and peripheral nerves respectively) can occur after the body makes immune responses against certain infectious micro-organisms.

We have not been able to explain exactly how such examples of infection-driven autoimmunity occur, however, nor why our bodies seem unable to prevent them.

Our immune cells, such as the antibody-creating B cells, go through processes when they are first formed that ensure they are able to identify our own bodies, and therefore avoid self-attack. These processes are generally reliable as they take place in a steady, regulated way.

B cells go through a second and much more chaotic phase of development, however, when the body is fending off disease or infection. In order to cope with the immeasurable range of microbes in our environment, B cells have evolved the ability to mutate their antibody genes randomly until they produce one that sticks strongly to the invader. At that point, the 'successful' B cells proliferate and flood the system with these new antibodies.

This 'high affinity antibody' generation occurs very rapidly within specialised environments in the lymph system known as 'germinal centres'. Most of the time, germinal centres serve us well, helping us fight disease and build up a protective armory for the future.

Unfortunately, the urgency and speed at which B cells mutate within the germinal centre, as well as the random nature of the process, creates a unique problem. Sometimes the antibody created to fight the invader, or 'antigen', also happens to match 'self' and has the potential to cause autoimmun
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Contact: Alison Heather
a.heather@garvan.org.au
61-292-958-128
Research Australia
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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