Understanding the Defective Immune System
The human immune system is wonderfully efficient and complex. This system develops weapons, called antibodies, to use against viral and bacterial infections. When antibodies attack the body’s own tissue it leads to the development of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus). In its later stages, SLE can lead to multi-organ system failure and death.
When a healthy immune system does not attack its own tissues, it is called “tolerance.” Patients with SLE show a loss of this tolerance. To date, we have come to understand this disease process through mouse models that develop human SLE-like diseases. Using these mouse models, Dr. Rahman will investigate how this tolerance functions and how autoantibodies (antibodies that attack self-tissues) are produced when this tolerance is defective. These studies will identify the genes involved in this defective tolerance process and help develop effective diagnostic and treatment approaches for systemic autoimmune diseases.