What Part do Genetics Play in Autoimmune Diseases?

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In my family, autoimmune disease is a word we are all too familiar with. My maternal grandparents had five children. My grandfather and four out of his five children have at least one autoimmune disease. This paper will review the various autoimmune diseases in my family and how genetics and environmental factors play a part in these diseases.
In order to understand autoimmune diseases, we must understand what autoimmunity is. Health human bodies are equipped with an immune system. The main function of the immune system is to protect the body from invading microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. The body’s immune system responds to these invading microorganisms. The body produces antibodies or sensitized lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). These antibodies attack and destroy the invading microorganisms (AARDA, 2013). In some cases, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells, destroying its’ own body’s cells as if they were invading microorganisms. These misdirected immune responses on the body are referred to as autoimmunity (JHMI, 2001).
To some degree, autoimmunity occurs naturally in everyone, and usually is harmless. However, in some people, this autoimmunity can lead to autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease occurs when a specific adaptive immune response is mounted against self-antigens (Janeway CA Jr, 2001). Basically, autoimmune disease occur when the body’s immune system attacks its’ own cells or organs. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases at the present time. Autoimmune disease affects up to 50 million Americans, 75% of those being women (AARDA, 2013).

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