The immune system might be the most complex and yet invaluable process in the body. It protects our human body from foreign disease pathogens that can wreak havoc to our fragile and beneficial cellular makeup. And vaccines are invaluable to help teach the immune system what foreign disease pathogens to look out for. But what if the immune system cannot recognize foreign pathogens from good normal cells? Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine looks into autoimmunity, that is, when the body attacks itself. Our guest is Dr. Miriam Shelef, a rheumatologist in the School of Medicine and Public Health at UW-Madison. She studies rheumatoid arthritis, one of many, many autoimmune diseases.
Ironically, where the immune system targets areas of infection, in rheumatoid arthritis it causes inflammation, swelling, pain, and deformity of the joints. The feature image associated with this post shows the disfigured hand and fingers of a patient. But rheumatoid arthritis can result in systemic autoimmunity, where the entire body can be effected. According to Miriam, studies and research to find out why autoimmunity occurs have been ongoing for decades. We’ve learned a little here and there, but every human being has a different chemical composition and immune system.
For more information, check out this website about Autoimmune Disease from Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
And here’s a link that talks about rheumatoid arthritis from the American College of Rheumatology.
Image Courtesy: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons