This is an entirely theoretical question, so all you scientists....
I've always wondered what if any relationship there is between "autoimmune" and "immune system". The reason I wondered is that all my life I have had an unusually strong immune system. I road in a van with all the other kids who one by one got the classic childhood diseases and I never got any of them! I rarely get the flu or a cold. (I'm usually quite indignant when I do!). And I am part of the 10-15% of the population who "spontaneously cleared" the HepC virus. (I have the antibodies for HepC, but no detectable virus) Then in my 40s I got my first autoimmune disorder - Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism) and in my 50s my second, Type 1 Diabetes. I know that people with one autoimmune condition are susceptible to getting other ones.
So does this mean that my immune system works so hard at fighting off disease, that it also mistakenly attacks itself (the autoimmune response)? Just curious - wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience or knows anything about a connection between the two things.
At least it can be done in mice to some extend. So far the results for the drug BCG point in the same direction for humans. The faustman labs are now preparing for human trials to find the right dosage of BCG. The big question is whether or not humans are capable to regrow their beta cells after decades of autoimmune attacks. It is likely that only some of us will see huge benefits. But even if we do not reach independence of external insulin the small amount of regrown beta cells will help to make our control easier.
Holger,This is exactly why I travel to The Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, at my own expense, once yearly; in order to donate my Type One blood for Dr.Faustman's research. Her efforts point to a "cure" or at least significant reduction of insulin needed to maintain good control and consequently, better health for type one diabetics. You explained autoimmunity and diabetes VERY well. Thanks.
Also thanks to you Zoe, for posting this thread. I ,too, rarely get sick from viruses, infections and the like. I thought it was because I worked 30+ years in a school system, and had been exposed and rendered immune by the drippy nosed hugs, coughs/sneezes in my face, and wet touches I received from my little students (lol).
The healthy body can produce around 20 units of insulin per hour. Just image this BCG treatment could restore 10% of this capacity. That are 2 units of insulin. For me this would result in having the capacity to reduce the blood glucose by more than 70 mg/dl. Just imagine how easier the control must be. Furthermore we would have some residual c-Peptide and even a small fraction of Amylin. All said to play an important role in the long term development of complications. The potential is there and your travels are really worth the effords.
It would likely be similar to those of us in our honeymoon phase and I can tell you I'm sure my control is much easier than it is for those of you fighting the full battle. I don't have to take any basal insulin right now and I think that makes a huge difference in how easy it is to manage things.
Wow, all sorts of interesting responses popped up while I was sleeping! I'm reading and re-reading the various explanations, because science is not my forte.
If I understand what you are saying correctly, Holger, my own immune system (and perhaps some of the others who've responded), has been especially alert. Then the autoimmunity you describe as a "form of higher alertness" that to some extent misbehaves by targeting our own tissue. So is the antibody response a specific and unique "form" of "high alertness" or is it on a continuum where it is the most intense reaction of alertness which has the price of poor recognition of friendly tissue? That would certainly be the theory I've been wondering about!
In my case, I would say I had the "alert" immune system for a long time in my life. I wasn't diagnosed with Graves hyperthyroid disorder until I was 45 (I might have had it a couple years before). I wasn't diagnosed with Type 1 until I was 58. So the "intense alertness" had been going on for over 40 years before the autoimmune response. My question was more about "hyperalert immune system" as a precursor or causation of autoimmune response. Has that continuum been studied?
So if there is a connection between "hyperalert immune system" and autoimmune response perhaps it's more prevalent in those of us diagnosed older? (and perhaps only one version of how autoimmune response is caused). I think it would be necessary to do research to see if a statistically significant number of Type 1's diagnosed in adulthood or later adulthood had less illness throughout their lives prior to diagnosis. If so, that would be an area to study - how that whole process of a hyper alert immune system can lead to autoimmune response. And if so how to identify those susceptible and intervene in the process (hopefully not with the price of a weakened immune system and more random illness!)
Faustman refers to them as rogue T-cells. As far as I have understood these rogue cells are just a small fraction of the T-cells. Maybe there is just one stem cell that has inherited the genes for autoimmunity. The T-cells being born from this stem cell will inherit the genes. At some point the T-cells turn into active rogue cells. Somehow the vaccine BCG creates a response in these rogue T-cells and this will normalize their activity. Behave, look closer, this is your tissue you morons, LOL!
But that is the question Capin:
Why do we fail the second test? Do we overwhelm the bodies ability because the "attack" of the virus is mounted so heavily our bodies do not have the ability to properly "screen"? This same process (e.g. quick and heavy response) could very likely improve our ability to fight all the bacteria and viruses off.
I have heard more casual talk that people with autoimmune conditions likely get a few more infections then the general population. The idea here is that their immune system is continually spending a small portion of its time and resources on attacking the host's tissues.
I would bet that there are some that get sick MORE than the general population and some less with an average about the same but with a much wider spread. The key here is overall capacity. If the autoimmune comprimised individual has small overall capacity to attack foreign invaders then they would likely be sick more often. On the other hand if the overall capacity is high and you mount heavy responses to foreign invaders it may work out you do not get sick as often.
Of course blood glucose control plays a part. If the person is chronically poorly controlled it will reduce the bodies overall capacity to deal with foreign invaders and thus we get sick.
Most of this is all conjecture on my part but this is why I have the questions. The overall process makes sense but the specifics of an autoimmune process and what this means to the overall immune system are details I am unfamiliar with. I understand WHAT autoimmunity is I just don't understand WHY. I suppose if the questions were easier to answer and readily available we would likely be closer to a cure. Seems to me the "cures" we have been hearing about only deal with the end result of the autoimmune attack not WHY it happened.
See my response to Holger above, MD. In it I clarified that at least in my case (I realize one person is not statistically significant but it still might provide clues), the "hyperalert immune system" went on for 40 years before the antibody attack. But there's yet another factor (again just for me, which could be meaningless or could be a "good example) I developed antibodies to HepC sometime about 20 years before my first autoimmune attack. I have the antibodies to this day. (but no detectable virus). Since those antibodies were hanging out all those years with no virus to attack could they have "turned on" my own tissue??
Why do I feel like I'm making less sense, not more, as I go on!?
You might find this link of interest. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcAVeKobsxU
Thanks for posting, Cheryl. Quite a bit technical for me, but perhaps the others will be able to get something from it. It's hard when you have a complex question, but need a simple answer to understand!