Auto-immunity Fact or Fiction
Read before the Society Wednesday 14th January 1970.
The recognition that the mammalian organism is capable of developing an immune response against its own normal tissue components has aroused interest in the implication of auto-immune reactions in human disease.
This interest may, however, be too widely applied, and the label “auto-immune” may be applied to a particular clinical entity with a complete disregard for the rather exacting criteria which this aetiology demands; indeed one might say that the word auto-immune is almost synonymous with the word idiopathic, in the clinician’s dictionary.
Some definitions first. By auto-immune disease it is widely understood that there is a failure at some point for the body to differentiate between its own tissue components and those of a foreign material; it can no longer distinguish, if one likes to put it in more crude terms, between “self” and “non-self” . Consequently the host launches an immunological response towards its tissue components, with the resulting pathological changes and clinical manifestations.
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