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Autoimmune diseases

Summary Article: autoimmune disease from The Columbia Encyclopedia
autoimmune disease, any of a number of abnormal conditions caused when the body produces antibodies to its own substances. In rheumatoid arthritis, a group of antibody molecules called collectively RF, or rheumatoid factor, is complexed to the individual's own gamma globulin blood proteins; the circulating complex apparently causes tissue inflammation and muscle and bone deformities. In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an inflammatory disease of the thyroid gland, antibodies are produced against the thyroid protein thyroglobulin. In some blood disorders, antibodies may be produced against the body's own red and white blood cells. Myasthenia gravis, a disease characterized by weakened muscles, is thought to have an autoimmune origin. In systemic lupus erythematosus it has been shown that individuals have antibodies to certain of their own body substances that for some reason are acting as antigens; these sub...    Continue Reading
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