Autoimmune Disease

Find Diabetes Clinics »

Our bodies are protected from infection and disease by a clever group of cells, collectively known as the immune system. They travel in the blood and are able to move into and out of tissues to hunt bacteria and viruses. They can also move into lymph, which is a separate fluid from blood, made up of tissue fluid and proteins.

Some special cells in the immune system known as lymphocytes are able to recognise specific viruses and bacteria depending on their structure. This enables the immune system to remove them more quickly, helping to prevent us from becoming infected. This is primarily the job of the T lymphocytes, which are able to recognise and destroy the invaders, whereas the B lymphocytes produce special molecules known as antibodies, which can destroy many types of bacteria.

In some cases our immune system can become damaged or start to misbehave, attacking our own cells instead of the viruses or bacteria. The damage caused to the organs within our bodies can be catastrophic, sometimes even leading to death. Probably one of the most common autoimmune diseases is type 1 diabetes mellitus. In this instance, auto-antibodies are produced by B lymphocytes which bind to cells within the pancreas. This binding is then recognised by other immune cells, which begin to destroy the pancreas, as they think that it doesn’t belong in the body. Eventually the pancreas becomes so damaged that it can no longer produce any insulin, which is known as type 1 diabetes mellitus.