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Researchers at Children's Discover Connection Between Allergic Diseases and Autoimmune Diseases

April 03, 2007

 A new study by researchers at Children’s and the University of Washington (UW) identifies a connection between allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, and autoimmune diseases.

A new study by researchers at Children’s and the University of Washington (UW) identifies a connection between allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, and autoimmune diseases. The study was published in the April 1 edition of Nature Immunology.

Approximately 75 percent of autoimmune diseases occur in women, most frequently during the childbearing years. These diseases also comprise a significant portion of chronic childhood disorders. Autoimmune disease refers to a group of more than 80 serious, chronic illnesses including diseases of the nervous, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems as well as skin and other connective tissues, eyes, blood, and blood vessel. In all of these diseases, the underlying problem is similar—the body’s immune system (including B and/or T immune cells) becomes misdirected, attacking the very organs it was designed to protect.

“Our study implies that allergic and inflammatory diseases may actually trigger autoimmune diseases by relaxing the controls that normally eliminate newly produced, self-reactive B cells. This is important because many autoimmune diseases are caused by self-reactive antibodies produced by such B cells” said Dr. David Rawlings lead researcher and section head of Immunology at Children’s Hospital and the UW.

Researchers at Children’s are now trying to discover specifically where the “relaxation” in the control of B cell autoimmunity takes place. “In association with other UW laboratories, we also have begun to study drugs that can counter some of these effects. One such drug helps to prevent autoimmune kidney disease in a related animal model,” said Rawlings.

In addition to Dr. David Rawlings, other authors of the study included Alexander Astrakhan, Thuc Nguyen, MD and Shirly Becker-Herman, PhD.
For a complete copy of the study, please visit http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v8/n5/full/ni1452.html or http://www.nature.com/ni/index.html

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

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