What is Autoimmunity?

Autoimmunity is the presence of antibodies (which are made by B lymphocytes) or T lymphocytes directed against normal components of a person. These components are called auto-antigens (or self-antigens) and typically consist of proteins (or proteins complexed with nucleic acids).

Autoimmunity is very common. For example, antibodies directed against nuclear antigens, called ANA are found in about 6% of the overall healthy population.

Lab Scientist at Work

Questions about autoimmune disease?

Autoimmune diseases are not easy to understand. We aim to promote knowledge about autoimmune disease.

For patients, the centers help in identifying the best clinical specialist for particular autoimmune conditions. Faculty members of our center do not see patients, but rather perform research that, at times, involves patients.

Researchers Analyzing Specimens

Causes of Autoimmune Disease

Since the official acceptance in the mid 1950s that the immune system can attack the very own body of an individual, several different theories have been proposed to explain the induction (initiation) of an autoimmune disease.

Consulting with Dr. Caturegli

Types of Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases can be classified according to several criteria, one being the location of the autoimmune attack. Autoimmune diseases are distinguished as systemic (which affects many organs) or organ-specific (which affects one main organ).


autoimmune diseases affect about 3% of the US population, especially women


they develop over a prolonged period of time, so that diagnosis is often delayed


they can affect many different organs or tissues, and have heterogeneous presentations