It has long been a question in medical research; why does the body’s immune system attack its vital cells, tissues, and organs? The body’s line of defense against infections is the immune system. The immune system needs to distinguish the cellular components of itself from the cells of invading organisms. The immune system’s job should be to attack the invading organisms. However, if the immune system fails to detect and destroy the invading organisms, infection results. And, if the immune system fails to recognize self-cells and mistakenly attacks them, the result is an autoimmune disease. Common autoimmune diseases include systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and many more. There are more than 80 recognized types of autoimmune diseases.
Immune and blood cells come from multipotent hematopoietic stem cells that originate in the bone marrow. When these cells depart from the bone marrow, T cells begin a maturation process in the thymus, or a small organ located in the upper chest. After this maturation process, they are spread to the body with the rest of the immune cells.
While in the thymus, T cells learn to distinguish between the proteins of their own body and invading organism’s antigens. T cells have the ability to bind to the MHC proteins conveyed by each individual and prevent infections and inflammation.
Currently, treatments for autoimmune diseases include the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressive agents like steroids and inhibitor proteins. However, their effects on immune responses are unable to prompt clinically significant remissions in certain patients. Now, researchers are experimenting with the use of stem cells to treat autoimmune disorders.
Stem cell therapy for autoimmune disease has been shown to induce healing activity. Stem cells heal damaged tissues, and they modulate the immune system to shut off pathological responses. At the same time, stem cells preserve the ability to fight off disease. Stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, move to inflamed tissue, and start producing anti-inflammatory agents. Stem cells also induce the production of T regulatory cells or immune cells with the function of protecting the body against self-attack.