Autoimmune diseases occur as a result of the body’s natural immune system mistakenly attacking and damaging healthy, normal cells and tissue. Currently, an estimated 60 different autoimmune diseases affect between 5 and 8 percent of the U.S. population; making it one of the largest disease burdens faced today.
Divided into two distinct categories, autoimmune diseases are typically classified as organ-specific or systemic autoimmune diseases. Systemic autoimmune diseases include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, and polymyositis; organ-specific autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto thyroiditis, Graves disease, type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes, and pernicious anemia.
Currently, most cases of autoimmune disease are treated with corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, and/or methotrexate. While all of these medications have been demonstrated to be effective in treating autoimmune disease in some capacity, improvement is not universal; these medications have also been associated with known toxicities.
As research continues to explore the immune system and various autoimmune disorders, it appears that adult stem cells offer promise for effective, non-pharmacological treatment of autoimmune disease.
The author of this review points out that while many animal studies exploring the potential benefits of autologous and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cells (HSCT) exist, the danger associated with allogeneic bone marrow transplants has limited studying these transplants to only those subjects with severe autoimmune disorders that are not responding to other, more proven treatments.
The review also focuses on the treatment of autoimmune disease with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Specifically, the author points to several in vitro studies demonstrating the immunomodulatory properties of MSCs as well as their immunosuppressive effects on MHC-mismatched lymphocyte proliferation. This form of MSC transplantation produces relatively short effects but has proven to be profoundly different from HSCT. Specifically, this procedure does not require the patient to be immunosuppressed in advance of transplantation and produces a therapeutic effect in the affected organ as a result of the homing of MSCs. Studies have demonstrated that MSC transplant has reversed multiorgan dysfunction in SLE mice and humans while also demonstrating stable 12 – 18-month disease remission. As a result, further clinical trials exploring autologous bone marrow MSC (BM-MSC) are currently ongoing.
With the difficulty and risk associated with BM-MSC transplantation, the author points out that since adipose tissue is readily available and easily obtainable, adipose tissue-derived MSC (AT-MSC) are being explored for their potential as a regenerative treatment and wound healing option. Early studies have demonstrated AT-MSC to have immunosuppressive properties that reduce experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), decrease spinal cord inflammation, and significantly ameliorate the severity of colitis and arthritis. In fact, there is convincing evidence indicating that AT-MSC transplant produces therapeutic results comparable to MSCs derived from bone marrow.
At the same time, gene therapy research exploring the use of stem cells as a vehicle in autoimmune disease demonstrated delivery of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) genes in an animal model of multiple sclerosis using bone marrow stem cells and human insulin gene transfected BM-MSC therapy in murine type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes has demonstrated positive results, including decreased blood glucose level, improved secretion of human insulin in serum and liver, and delayed onset and clinical severity of EAE.
As research continues to explore the benefits of adult stem cell therapy for the treatment of autoimmune disease, and with genetic therapy showing promising treatment options, researchers are optimistic of the benefits provided through a combination of stem cell and gene therapy.
Source: (n.d.). Adult Stem Cell Therapy for Autoimmune Disease – NCBI – NIH. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4021767/
 “Autoimmune Disease – National Stem Cell Foundation.” https://nationalstemcellfoundation.org/glossary/autoimmune-disease/. Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.
By some estimates, there are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, while the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) includes conditions related to autoimmune disease on their list, which totals more than 100 disorders. Some of these diseases are extremely rare, while others are more common. They all share the same characteristic: the immune system malfunctions, mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. Here’s a look into the most common autoimmune diseases.
The Arthritis Foundation states that there are 1.5 million people in the U.S. with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with women being three times more likely to get it than men. In this condition, the immune system attacks the synovium or lining between joints. Inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, heart, and circulatory system.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in children under the age of 16. Patients experience joint pain which may persist for only a few months, while others may have it for years. Swelling and stiffness are also common, and larger joints, such as the knees, are often affected.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)
Lupus is notoriously challenging to diagnose because it bears similarities to many other conditions. The inflammation caused by the disease can affect various parts of the body, including the lungs, kidneys, heart, joints, and skin, among others. Fatigue, skin rash, and fever may also occur. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. have lupus, 9 out of 10 of whom are women.
Sometimes, psoriasis may be accompanied by arthritis. Either the joint issues or the skin problems related to psoriasis may appear first. Psoriasis is characterized by red patches covered by silvery scales, which are caused by the body’s immune system creating an overproduction of skin cells. The inflammatory response can then affect the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. Psoriatic arthritis affects roughly 30% of people with psoriasis.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is the collective term for disorders caused by chronic inflammation of the intestines. Ulcerative colitis is one common form, in which inflammation and ulcers form in the large intestine and rectum. Crohn’s disease is another common form, in which the lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed.
If you suffer from any one of the most common autoimmune diseases, contact our care coordinator today to learn more about the options you have.
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases. While some have unique, specific symptoms, for many of these conditions, there are striking similarities. In particular, a few signs of autoimmune disease can manifest early on, potentially even years before a formal diagnosis. Here are a few early signs of autoimmune disease.
If your weight is fluctuating even without changes to your diet or exercise patterns, take note. This symptom could point to autoimmune issues such as hypothyroidism, in which the production of key hormones causes weight gain.
Another common indicator of autoimmune disease is fatigue. It’s the most common symptom reported by people with autoimmune disorders, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes. Experts believe the root cause of this symptom is widespread inflammation, which can affect oxygen and nutrient supply, metabolism, and mood.
Rashes can be seen in autoimmune diseases such as lupus. In this condition, patients often notice a butterfly-shaped rash, which usually appears on the face. While the rash is an indication of inflammation affecting the skin, it can also spread elsewhere, such as the joints and organs.
Muscle or Joint Pain
While joint pain can develop from long-term wear and tear, unexplained joint pain could indicate an immune system issue. The symptom is a hallmark trait of both rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example.
Digestive changes such as diarrhea, bloating, and gas can be attributed to poor eating patterns, but prolonged symptoms without dietary changes can suggest autoimmune issues. In irritable bowel disorders, these symptoms can indicate intestinal issues that require long-term care.
Symptoms of autoimmune conditions often mimic the signs of other conditions and illnesses. Unfortunately, many of these conditions don’t have a single test that can confirm a diagnosis. For this reason, it will be important to work closely with your doctor to discuss symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and testing methods.
Patients today who are diagnosed are looking into other alternative treatment options. One of those options is regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy. Stem cells are naturally found within the body and have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into specialized cell types. They act as the body’s natural repair kit and also have anti-inflammatory properties. If you are interested then contact a care coordinator today!
Autoimmune diseases are common and may develop at any age. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease just a few examples of these conditions, although there are more than 80 which have been identified. Because these conditions are chronic, and thus lifelong, getting diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease can be overwhelming. Yet, there are steps you can take to remain in control of your health.
First and foremost, it’s important to educate yourself about your condition, its risks, and available treatment options. Asking questions and exploring therapies are among the most effective things you can do to maintain your wellness after being diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease. While partnering with specialists is an important aspect of disease management, you can also be your own advocate by performing research independently. As you do so, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
Comorbidities are conditions that accompany other diseases. In autoimmune disease, an abnormal immune system response leads to an attack of healthy tissue. This attack can happen anywhere in the body, and in some diseases, more than one area will be affected. For example, in Crohn’s disease, the bowels are primarily targeted. Yet, in systemic lupus erythematosus, symptoms are experienced throughout the whole body.
The abnormal immune response in autoimmune conditions puts you more at risk for developing other conditions since the body’s immunity is already in overdrive. For example, people with Crohn’s disease are more likely to experience arthritis, liver disease, and colon cancer. By understanding the risks of potential comorbidities, you can take a proactive approach in watching for other conditions and treating them promptly should they develop.
Know Your Medication’s Side Effects
People with autoimmune diseases may only need medications briefly to encourage remission; or, they may need lifelong treatments to control symptoms. Every drug comes with potential risks and side effects, which should be considered carefully. Moreover, if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it’s especially important to go over risks with your doctor.
Many patients want to seek alternative methods to help manage or prevent oncoming symptoms. Regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, is an emerging option many have researched and considered for this purpose.
Find The Right Level of Monitoring
Some autoimmune disorders call for close monitoring. This might include reporting symptoms, going for imaging tests, and having blood work done. Following your diagnosis, speak with your specialist to determine how often you should have routine monitoring performed, and what parameters to look for to consider a treatment successful.
You might also consider having a comprehensive test done to find out what insufficiencies and deficiencies you may have that may be causing symptoms. These tests get to the root of the issue to support better overall health and a strong immune system.
The more informed you are about your condition, the better you’ll be able to make the decisions that are best for your needs. Use organizations such as the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (aarda.org) to gather resources and support. Additionally, consider consulting with several specialists, such as functional medicine providers, such as Stemedix, who can help you explore treatments outside of conventional drugs.
Up to 23.5 million people in the U.S. are living with an autoimmune disease, and according to the National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of these conditions is rising. More than 80 chronic conditions make up the family of autoimmune diseases, some of which are very rare. Others, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, are more common. Here is a guide to Autoimmune Diseases.
What Are Autoimmune Diseases?
Autoimmune diseases are characterized by an abnormal immune system response. Instead of fighting infections as they should, the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. This attack can happen anywhere in the body, and in some conditions, more than one area may be targeted. For instance, in type 1 diabetes, only the pancreas is affected. Yet, in systemic lupus erythematosus, symptoms are experienced throughout the whole body.
What Causes Autoimmune Disease?
Experts haven’t yet pinpointed the reason why the immune system misfires. With that being said, studies suggest factors such as gender, race, and ethnicity contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing an autoimmune condition. For instance, women are twice as likely as men to be affected.
Currently, researchers are looking into how factors such as sunlight exposure, poverty, agricultural chemicals, mercury, nutrition, and genetics could play into the development of various autoimmune diseases.
What Are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases?
The immune system comprises various parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, thymus, tonsils and adenoids, appendix, bone marrow, and spleen. As such, the symptoms can be varied and far-reaching, especially when considering the dozens of different types of disorders. Although this list is by no means comprehensive, here are a few of the more common symptoms:
- Vision changes or impairment
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Swelling and redness
What Are Some Common Autoimmune Diseases?
Because some of the symptoms of these disorders can mimic other conditions, patients may go years without receiving an official diagnosis. Some conditions require lifelong medication to control progression and symptoms. A few of the most common conditions include:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
While there are currently medications available to help patients manage these and other autoimmune conditions, many cannot be taken long-term, have serious side effects, and fail to produce desired results. Fortunately, other options are being investigated, including the use of regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy for autoimmune conditions, for instance. This alternative option is at the forefront of emerging treatments for autoimmune diseases, as these regenerative cells have the ability to reduce inflammation and repair areas that have already been damaged by the immune system response. Other options to find out the root cause of symptoms can be done through a Genova Diagnostic home comprehensive test provided by Stemedix. These tests can provide an extensive review of your current insufficiencies and deficiencies that will lead to the reasons of symptoms you may be experiencing. After reading this guide to Autoimmune Diseases if you would like more information, contact a Care Coordinator today!
Humans cannot practically live without an immune system. The immune system helps us prevent and fight off infections and detect and destroy cancer cells. For some, however, experience conditions that affect the immune system. Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, polymyositis, atopic dermatitis, and rheumatoid arthritis can make day to day activities challenging.
Patients who do not find relief from current therapies such as immunosuppressants and biologic agents, or those who cannot tolerate the side effects, are limited to optimal options. And when the autoimmune disease is severe, the patient’s quality of life is extremely low.
Researchers recruited patients with various, difficult-to-treat autoimmune diseases to study stem cell treatment outcomes. These patients had tried many other autoimmune disease treatments, and all had failed. The stem cell treatment used in these cases was called “compassionate use” since the patients had exhausted other treatment options and their conditions were all progressed. This compassionate use indication allowed researchers to use large numbers of stem cells—higher than are normally used in stem cell therapy.
The scientists took small amounts of stem cells from adipose tissue, i.e. fat tissue. Under laboratory conditions, they “expanded” the purified stem cells. In other words, the researchers took a relatively small number of stem cells and caused them to multiply them into millions of cells. Millions of cells were needed so that the doctors could have substantial treatment doses for each patient. The patients with autoimmune diseases received multiple doses of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells intravenously. These patients were then followed clinically to observe any change in their disease.
The first thing that the researchers noted was that high doses of stem cells did show to be safe. Multiple infusions of up to 1 billion stem cells infused over less than a month did not result in adverse events.
Just as importantly, people who had failed all other autoimmune disease treatments saw benefit from mesenchymal stem cell therapy. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis or polymyositis who could not stand or walk before treatment were showing success in standing and walking post-treatment. Patients with severe atopic dermatitis had substantial improvements in symptoms. Even a person with progressive autoimmune hearing loss had their hearing restored in one ear (and partially improved in the other ear) after mesenchymal stem cell therapy.
The astonishing results will need to be corroborated in a larger number of patients, but this study did reveal that high dose stem cells were safe in people with various autoimmune diseases. Those who do suffer from debilitating autoimmune diseases and who have not found relief from other treatments may want to research and consider stem cell therapy for a possible alternative option to help manage symptoms.
Reference: Chan Ra, J., et al. (2011). Stem cell treatment for patients with autoimmune disease by systemic infusion of culture-expanded autologous adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells. J Transl Med. 2011; 9: 181.