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What Are genetic effects ?

The development of an autoimmune disease may be influenced by the genes a person inherits together with the way the person's immune system responds to certain triggers or environmental influences. The genes in a person mutate due to vitamin-D deficiency, marriage to your cousin has little effect if your immune functions remain normal.

What other factors may influence the development of autoimmune diseases? Some autoimmune diseases are known to begin or worsen with certain triggers such as viral infections. Sunlight not only acts as a trigger for lupus but can worsen the course of the disease. It is important to be aware of the factors that can be avoided to help prevent or minimize the amount of damage from the autoimmune disease. Other less understood influences affecting the immune system and the course of autoimmune diseases include aging, chronic stress, hormones, and pregnancy

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How Does the Immune System Work?

The immune system defends the body from attack by invaders recognized as foreign. It is an extraordinarily complex system that relies on an elaborate and dynamic communications network that exists among the many different kinds of immune system cells that patrol the body. At the heart of the system is the ability to recognize and respond to substances called antigens whether they are infectious agents or part of the body (self antigens).

Cells and molecules of the immune system protect the nose from attack by a virus.

Graphic: Immune System showing Antibody, B Cell, T Cell, Cytokine, Complement, Macrophage, and Virus.

Graphic: T Cell (lymphocyte) with a T-cell receptor on its surface
T cell (lymphocyte) with a T-cell receptor on its surface

T and B Cells

Most immune system cells are white blood cells, of which there are many types. Lymphocytes are one type of white blood cell, and two major classes of lymphocytes are T cells and B cells. T cells are critical immune system cells that help to destroy infected cells and coordinate the overall immune response. The T cell has a molecule on its surface called the T-cell receptor. This receptor interacts with molecules called MHC (major histocompatibility complex). MHC molecules are on the surfaces of most other cells of the body and help T cells recognize antigen fragments. B cells are best known for making antibodies. An antibody binds to an antigen and marks the antigen for destruction by other immune system cells. Other types of white blood cells include macrophages and neutrophils.

Macrophages and Neutrophils

Macrophages and neutrophils circulate in the blood and survey the body for foreign substances. When they find foreign antigens, such as bacteria, they engulf and destroy them. Macrophages and neutrophils destroy foreign antigens by making toxic molecules such as reactive oxygen intermediate molecules. If production of these toxic molecules continues unchecked, not only are the foreign antigens destroyed, but tissues surrounding the macrophages and neutrophils are also destroyed. For example, in individuals with the autoimmune disease called Wegener's granulomatosis, overactive

Graphic: Macrophage Engulfing Bacteria showing Macrophage, Antibody, Bacterium, and Packet of toxic moleculesA macrophage engulfing a bacterium and releasing packets of toxic molecules (reactive oxygen intermediates) that break down and destroy the bacterium.

Please continue to page three of autoimmune inflammation pathway

Nerves Click to view different size nerve fibers.