Date Published: August 17, 2004
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Partial Text: Given the overwhelming complexity of the immune system, it’s no wonder that unraveling the mechanisms responsible for immunological disease has proved so difficult. The factors that trigger autoimmunity—which involves a breakdown in the body’s ability to tolerate its own molecules—are not well understood, though animal studies show that genetic predisposition greatly increases risk. And that’s where the real challenge begins. For certain diseases, individuals with defects in both copies of a specific gene invariably develop the disease. But more often, diseases with an inherited component result from the complex interplay of a variety of genes, each contributing a small effect that is typically dependent both on the expression of other genes and on both random and environmental factors.