Brooke Smiley: Autoimmune Disease Introduction Post

Autoimmune diseases, or diseases in which a person’s own immune system attacks their body’s cells, are a prevalent form of disease in the world today. Every year, there are many people worldwide that are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, and each disease varies greatly. Not only does each disease attack a different bodily organ, but  each one can also range in severity from mildly noticeable to severely debilitating. Some diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), can end up creating much hardship on the patient in terms of life quality and length as well as financial difficulties for repeated hospital visits and treatments. Therefore, many researchers worldwide are trying to find the cause of these diseases in order to prevent, treat, and hopefully even cure these diseases. Researchers are trying to find ways to use scientific, engineering, and biological principles in order to achieve these ends.

My group for EN1 is investigating some of these autoimmune diseases and how the field of biomedical engineering is progressing towards the outcomes outlined in the above paragraph. For me, I want to investigate this topic further because I feel that autoimmune diseases, especially ones like MS and RA, can be extremely detrimental to the lives of those who suffer from them. I want to learn about the current research on the topic to find out what the possibilities are in terms of treatments or possible cures in the future related to the field of biomedical engineering.

Therefore, I took the first steps in my path of research by obtaining an article written by Hugh McDevitt from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Department of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Called “Specific Antigen Vaccination to Treat Autoimmune Disease” (published on October 5 of 2004), it is one of the first articles that extrapolated upon research into T cells to find a possible cause of autoimmune disease and the use of vaccines containing antigens to treat the T cell problems by altering certain mechanisms within the body. Having been cited many times since then, this article expresses many of the founding principles of the research done for autoimmune diseases and how vaccines were first shown to have some effects in mice for treating the problems associated with autoimmune diseases and T cells. While the article expresses that many of the symptoms were prevented, stopped, or reversed in many of the mice to which the vaccines were given, the article also expressed danger in the use of these vaccines. In the studies cited in the article, many mice formed hypersensitivity to the vaccine, creating a problem where repeated doses of the vaccine would cause anaphylaxis to the point where death resulted for a majority of the mice. While human tests for similar vaccines only created small local reactions, the severe outcome of the various mice studies creates a need for further studies to be completed before any vaccine research and findings become viable.

Overall, I need to investigate further this broad outlook of the use of vaccines and other treatments to help the T cell issues present in autoimmune diseases. I will likely look at some of the more recently written articles that cited this early piece. However I also want to investigate other modes of treatment and study, as I feel that T cells, while important to this topic, may only be one key to engineering a treatment or cure for these diseases.

The links below are to the resources I used to begin the above research. The first link is to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website where I located the basic information for the description of autoimmune diseases, while the second link is to the article published by Hugh McDevitt.

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