TonImmunologist Paul Ehrlich believes that organisms may attack themselves through the immune system, and the immune system has evolved to protect them from external diseases. In 1901, the future Nobel Prize winner refuted a theory he called “Terrorism“—Too far-fetched. Today, patients and doctors know that autoimmune diseases are too real. There are approximately 80 autoimmune diseases affecting millions of people around the world. The types and numbers shown in the graphs on the next two pages Daunting.
Autoimmunity involves autoantibodies—immune system proteins that mark the organism’s own tissues for destruction—and T cells and B cells that act as attack factors. Modern molecular biology techniques enable scientists to track these cell and protein populations, helping to refine this definition.
However, although the outline is clearer than in Ehrlich’s time, there are still some controversies about the details of different diseases. Matthew C. Cook, director of the Center for Personalized Immunology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Australia, pointed out that even in diseases where autoantibodies related to pathology cannot always be detected by scientists, drugs that regulate T cells can be successfully used. The skin disease psoriasis is one such example, often described as an autoimmune disease.
Our list includes most known diseases in fields where scientific understanding is still evolving. It describes the incidence of these diseases, the age at which they usually appear, and whether they are more likely to affect women or men (almost always women).
There are many autoimmune diseases, which together affect 4.5% of the world’s population. This list of 76 diseases comes from a detailed analysis published in 2012 by immunologists Scott M. Hayter and Matthew C. Cook at the Australian National University. Scientific american It has been updated with information from other autoimmune disease experts and the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). These diseases affect different parts of the body, and several affect multiple organs. Women are most often affected, although the specific sex ratio varies with individual diseases. The approximate average age of onset and the frequency in the population also vary.
Immunologists and rheumatologists admit that autoimmunity may be a vague field of research, and they are still discovering features that characterize disease as autoimmunity. Generally speaking, the diseases described here are divided into three categories. According to the strength of the evidence, they are driven by autoimmune responses and proteins called autoantibodies. In the most obvious cases, such as Graves’ disease, this disease must involve autoantibodies that cause immune system attacks, inflammation, and debilitating symptoms. In many other diseases, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, autoantibodies are often present, but scientists cannot always associate them with the pathology of the disease. Finally, some diseases do not always show autoantibodies, but they respond well to treatments that affect the immune system. This response indicates that the disease has an autoimmune component. Ulcerative colitis and psoriasis are two examples in this group.
Certain diseases that have autoantibodies and appear to be related to autoimmunity have been excluded from this list. That’s because they are not part of the Cook and Haite investigation, or they are not in the AARDA outline, or some autoimmune disease experts believe that certain biological characteristics make their status controversial. These diseases include myocarditis, optic neuromyelitis, primary membranous nephropathy, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.