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. Prominent examples include Celiac disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, Sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren’s syndrome, Churg-Strauss Syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, Addison’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Polymyositis (PM), and Dermatomyositis (DM). Autoimmune diseases are very often treated with steroids. The misconception that an individual’s immune system is totally incapable of recognizing self antigens is not new. Paul Ehrlich, at the beginning of the twentieth century, proposed the concept of horror autotoxicus, wherein a “normal” body does not mount an immune response against its own tissues. Thus, any autoimmune response was perceived to be abnormal and postulated to be connected with human disease. Now, it is accepted that autoimmune responses are an integral part of vertebrate immune systems (sometimes termed “natural autoimmunity”), normally prevented from causing disease by the phenomenon of immunological tolerance to self-antigens. Autoimmunity should not be confused with alloimmunity.
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