Immune Cells as Villains: Misdirected Immune System Attack in Autoimmune Diseases

In order for the body to function normally, immune system cells must play a crucial role in defending against infections and diseases. In some instances, however, the same cells expected to play a protective role become “evil.” T cells and antibodies begin to attack the cells and tissues designed to defend against infection and disease. They induce autoimmunity, a misdirected attack on the cells and tissues of the body. When this occurs, experts assert that the individual suffers from an autoimmune disease. Various circumstances cause the immune system to become a villain instead of a hero.

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First, a person may be born with a compromised immune system or primary immune deficiency. Immune deficiency can also be acquired by contracting a disease or infection that affects the immune system. Thirdly, allergic reactions can increase immune system activity. The immune system can ultimately turn against the healthy body in autoimmune diseases. Although immune system cells are expected to combat infections and diseases, the protective cells can become malignant when the autoimmune system is not functioning optimally.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s natural defense system (the immune system) begins to attack healthy tissues. However, there are instances in which specific adaptive immune responses target self-antigens. The adaptive immune response typically appears to combat and eliminate antigens from the body. Virus-infected cells are eliminated by cytotoxic T cells, whereas antibody and antigen immune complexes eliminate soluble antigens. In certain instances, however, an adaptive immune response develops to combat self-antigens, making it difficult for immune effector mechanisms to eliminate antigens effectively and cause a prolonged reaction (Mackay & Rose, 2014). The situation results in chronic inflammatory tissue damage brought on by the immune system’s effector pathways. The tissue damage…

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