Areas of Research

Autoimmunity and Allergy

Autoimmunity is a situation in which the immune system goes awry, causing damage to one's self.

In autoimmune responses, immune cells, which are normally eliminated during their development in the thymus gland and elsewhere, recognize and attack self-molecules. Persistence of these auto-reactive cells through several mechanisms can cause pathological conditions that damage or erode tissues.

As many as five percent of Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease, which includes lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Graves' disease, myasthenia gravis, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from allergy, which is generally a less severe manifestation of an aberrant immune response.

Investigators have identified these scientific challenges for the autoimmunity concentration:

  • Understanding how lymphocytes are tolerized
  • Discovering what controls the interaction of immune cells with each other
  • Understanding how genetic variation contributes to autoimmunity and/or allergy

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Text adapted from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund press release

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