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The immune system has become adapted to ensure that ‘self’ cells are not subject to an immune attack. The body is able to do this because tolerance is developed towards self-cells, should this tolerance be broken down by some means, the host becomes subject to autoimmune attacks which can be potentially damaging.
Autoimmunity occurs when the body fails to recognise self-cells from non-self, this results in immune responses and damage to the tissue of the host. The variety of autoimmune responses can be split generally in to two groups; organ specific and non-organ specific. In autoimmune responses it is thought that either over reactive T-helper cells or deficient T suppressor cells are the cause. Autoimmunity can also be induced by reactions to a foreign antigen that then reacts with a self-antigen to invoke a response, for example infection with a minor bacteria (streptococcus) can lead to antibodies being produced against an antigen displayed on heart valves that would lead to cardiac problems. Autoimmunity is diagnosed by autoantibodies and the deliberate induction of autoimmunity has been used to control fertility and tumours (immunotherapy).
- Autoimmunity – Inappropriate immune response to self antigens
- Hypersensitivity – Overactive immune response to foreign and self antigens
- Immunodeficiency – Ineffective immune response
- Type I hypersensitivity – (IgE mediated, initiated in 2-30 minutes) Antigen induces cross-linking of IgE bound to mast cells with release of vasoactive mediators.
- Type II hypersensitivity – (Antibody-mediated cytotoxic, 5-8 hours) Antibody directed against cell-surface antigens mediates cell destruction via ADCC or complement.
- Type III hypersensitivity – (Immune complex mediated, 2-8 hours) Antigen-Antibody complexes deposited at various sites induces mast cell degranulation, neutrophil degranulation damages tissue.
- Type IV hypersensitivity – (Delayed cell-mediated, 24-72 hours) Memory TH1 cells release cytokines that recruit and activate macrophages.