JAN 09, 2017 6:51 PM PST

Autoimmune Diseases Are Triggered By Infection - But How?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

There are a handful of explanations for why people develop autoimmune diseases, and a recent study has scientists investigating a new solution.

Lunatic Laboratories

A new study from the University of Basel was focused on the possibility that immune cells encounter an error during an infection in the body. The theory? The immune system confuses protein structures from pathogens with the body’s own proteins of structural similarities.

Somehow, the researchers thought, infections are acting as triggers for autoimmune reactions, which happens when immune cells recognize self cells as foreign, as if they were pathogenic cells instead of human cells.

From their study, they saw that as immune cells, B cells specifically, recognized and extracted influenza virus proteins from the cell surface of virally-infected cells, they were also extracting small amounts of neighboring membrane proteins. These proteins, called autoantigens, were taken from cell membranes in the central nervous system.

They saw the B cells activate other immune cells, like T cells, to fight the influenza virus after they extracted the cell surface proteins. However, in addition to an immune response designed to target influenza, the B cells also triggered an autoimmune reaction against the self membrane proteins.

Because of the uptake of autoantigens, an immune response ensued causing autoimmune inflammation in the brain in the genetically modified mice models used in the study. This is how a viral infection could trigger the activation of autoimmune T cells due to a mistake made by B cells while they uptake nearby proteins. Researchers involved believe that the same mechanism causes brain inflammation in humans, too.

“The next step would now be to examine whether similar errors occur in protein uptake by human B cells,” explained lead scientist Professor Tobias Derfuss. “We also want to clarify whether a viral infection in an animal can, under certain circumstances, lead to autoimmune inflammation in the brain.”

The present study was published in the journal PNAS.

Source: University of Basel

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 26, 2021
Microbiology
Some Herbal Medicines May Help Treat Tick-Borne Diseases
AUG 26, 2021
Some Herbal Medicines May Help Treat Tick-Borne Diseases
Ticks are vectors for disease; they can transmit pathogenic bacteria to animals and humans through their bites. Diseases ...
AUG 27, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Reducing our Waste Problem
AUG 27, 2021
Reducing our Waste Problem
The generation of waste in most of our lives is astounding. We throw much of what we use in the garbage. On average, Ame ...
SEP 02, 2021
Immunology
Will an Extra COVID Vaccine Shot Benefit People With Autoimmune Conditions?
SEP 02, 2021
Will an Extra COVID Vaccine Shot Benefit People With Autoimmune Conditions?
The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has helped save countless lives during the pandemic. Studies have shown that vac ...
SEP 05, 2021
Cardiology
Eating Walnuts & Pecans Can Help Lower 'Bad' Cholesterol
SEP 05, 2021
Eating Walnuts & Pecans Can Help Lower 'Bad' Cholesterol
Some nuts, especially walnuts, have high levels of healthy fats like Omega-3. New research reported in Circulation has s ...
SEP 13, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Moderna is Developing mRNA Vaccines to Rescue Different Protein Defects
SEP 13, 2021
Moderna is Developing mRNA Vaccines to Rescue Different Protein Defects
A genome contains instructions for making genes, and when an organism needs to produce proteins, it transcribes a gene s ...
SEP 14, 2021
Health & Medicine
A lower sodium diet decreases the chance of stroke and other heart disease
SEP 14, 2021
A lower sodium diet decreases the chance of stroke and other heart disease
A new study found that using a low salt alternative lowered the risk of stroke and other heart disease
Loading Comments...