Immune Dysregulation and Inflammatory Disease
Inflammation is the body’s normal physiological response to potential infection by pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and other foreign organisms. When these entities invade the body, the immune system responds to the potential threat by producing a variety of pro-inflammatory proteins, known as cytokines. These substances signal the body to increase blood flow and tissue temperature at the site of infection, and attract various kinds of white blood cells, or lymphocytes, to destroy the foreign organisms.
The healthy immune response relies on the ability of lymphocytes and other immune cells to recognize the difference between normal tissues, beneficial microbes, and pathogenic organisms through an ongoing process known as immune self-tolerance. Certain disease processes disrupt mechanisms of self-tolerance and cause the protective inflammatory response to occur in the absence of an actual threat. Instead, the immune system becomes dysregulated, leading to inappropriate overproduction of cytokines and over-activation of pro-inflammatory T cells programmed to attack the body’s own normal tissues and microbiota. This phenomenon encompasses a large category of autoimmune and chronic autoinflammatory diseases, including:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Allergies and asthma