Autoimmune diseases are caused by the body producing an immune response against its own tissues or even organs. The entire cause of autoimmune disease is so far still unknown. Some autoimmune diseases run in families, and certain cases may be triggered by infections or other environmental factors. The diseases generally fall into two types: systemic and organ specific. Systemic diseases damage many organs, whereas in organ specific diseases only a single organ or tissue is directly damaged by the autoimmune process.
Autoimmune Diseases – ANCA Vasculitis
The Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibodies (ANCA) are autoantibodies directed against antigens in the cytoplasm of granulocytes and monocytes. The ANCA markers are of serological importance for several necrotizing Vasculitides, affecting the small- and medium-sized blood vessels, displaying the disease groups of ANCA associated Vasculitides. We can differentiate 2 main ANCA types: the cytoplasmatic type (c-ANCA) which mostly associated to GPA (Granulomatotis with Polyangiitis) directed against PR3 (Proteinase 3) and the Perinuclear type where the target is the MPO (Myeloperoxidase).
Autoimmune Diseases – Gastroenterology
Coeliac disease (CD) is defined as a chronic small-intestinal, immune-mediated enteropathy precipitated by exposure to dietary gluten in genetically predisposed individuals. It is a common autoimmune disorder, affecting ~1% of the population in many parts of the world. This, non IgE mediated food allergy leads to massive malabsorption disturbances and is characterised by a complete atrophy of the villi and a hyperplasia of the crypts of the upper intestine.
The antigenic protein responsible for celiac disease is a heat stable allergen (protein) known as gliadin, which is a component of gluten. Gliadins are proteins which contain high amounts of the amino acids proline and glutamine; they belong to the nutritive tissue of the grain seeds of wheat, oat, barley and rye and are responsible for the baking properties of the flour.
Autoimmune Diseases – Rheumatology
Rheumatic diseases or musculoskeletal diseases are conditions that affect the joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones.
Common symptoms of musculoskeletal diseases include, joint pain, loss of motion of a joint and swelling, redness and warmth of an affected joint or area. There are over 200 distinct rheumatic diseases with the most common being: Osteoarthritis (OA), Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren syndrome and Scleroderma etc. Many of these conditions are the result of an autoimmune disorder, whereby an individuals’ immune system attacks their own tissues.
In developed countries, rheumatic diseases affect more individuals than any other disease, with estimations that up to 1 in 3 people are affected with rheumatic disease at some point in their lifetime. It is thought that risk to develop a rheumatic disease is increased due to smoking, obesity, increasing age, overuse of joints and potentially certain genetic factors.
Autoimmune Diseases – Thrombosis
Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is an autoimmune disease, caused by antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL). It provokes blood clots in arteries and veins, as well as in pregnancy related complications such as miscarriages. The presence of antibodies against phospholipids in patients with venous or arterial thrombosis, as well as in patients with complications during pregnancy, is the essential laboratory marker for diagnosis of APS. Furthermore, testing those antibodies might be an aid for the classification of systemic lupus erythematosus.