Our immune systems are critical to our health. They fight infections and protect us from disease by attacking harmful substances in our bodies. But when you have an autoimmune disease, it means your immune system gets confused and starts attacking healthy cells.[1]

Autoimmune diseases are relatively common: More than 23.5 million Americans suffer from one of them.[2] It’s unknown what causes autoimmune diseases, but factors appear to include:

  • Genetics: Autoimmune diseases tend to run in families.
  • Environment: Exposure to infections or environmental factors can play a role.
  • Gender and race: Women, particularly African-American, Hispanic American and Native American women, are more prone to autoimmune diseases.[1][2]

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disease[1], including:

What Are the Symptoms?

It can be difficult to diagnose autoimmune diseases because there are so many different conditions and so many symptoms are the same as other health problems.

The main sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can manifest itself in many different ways depending on which part or parts of the body are being targeted[3]. Some common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint pain
  • Rashes
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss or weight gain

Traditional Management

Treatments for autoimmune diseases are focused on disease management and typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Easing symptoms. Treatments may include physical therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen for mild symptoms, prescription medication to help with more severe symptoms, or surgery.
  • Replacing materials the body cannot make on its own. For example, someone with diabetes needs insulin injections to regulate blood sugar.

Suppressing the immune system. Since the immune system is attacking healthy cells, suppressing the immune system can stop it in its tracks, helping reduce inflammation and slowing the progression of the disease.

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Stem Cell Therapy for Autoimmune Disease

Mesenchymal stem cells are typically derived from adult bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue. They may prove effective in fighting autoimmune diseases because they can turn into many different types of cells. We can also use these stem cells in treatment without triggering a negative immune system response while helping to modulate or “reset” an abnormal immune system.

After stem cell treatment for autoimmune disease, patients have seen improvements including:

  • Improvements in tissue function
  • Reduction or elimination of dependence on immunosuppressors
  • Increased energy
  • Reduction of joint inflammation and pain
  • Increased range of motion
  • Improved coordination and concentration
  • Improved balance
  • Reduction or elimination of fevers
  • Reduction in the damage to vital organs; such as lungs and kidneys

 

Stem cells have been evaluated in multiple studies for their effectiveness in treating autoimmune diseases, and results have been promising. For more on these studies, please visit the specific condition pages:

Suggested References:

Bone Marrow Stromal Stem Cells in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.
Polymeri A, Giannobile WV, Kaigler D.
Horm Metab Res. 2016 Nov;48(11):700-713. Review.

Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for treatment towards immune- and inflammation-
mediated diseases: review of current clinical trials.
Wang LT, Ting CH, Yen ML, Liu KJ, Sytwu HK, Wu KK, Yen BL.
J Biomed Sci. 2016 Nov 4;23(1):76. Review.

The Immunoregulatory Activity of Mesenchymal Stem Cells: 'State of Art' and 'Future
Avenues'.
Fierabracci A, Del Fattore A, Muraca M.
Curr Med Chem. 2016;23(27):3014-3024. Review.

Modulation of Immune Responses by Mesenchymal Stromal Cells.
Yarygin KN, Lupatov AY, Sukhikh GT.
Bull Exp Biol Med. 2016 Aug;161(4):561-5. doi: 10.1007/s10517-016- 3461-8. Review.

Mesenchymal stromal cells and immunomodulation: A gathering of regulatory immune cells.
Najar M, Raicevic G, Fayyad-Kazan H, Bron D, Toungouz M, Lagneaux L.
Cytotherapy. 2016 Feb;18(2):160-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2015.10.011. Review.

Mesenchymal stem cells and immunomodulation: current status and future prospects.
Gao F, Chiu SM, Motan DA, Zhang Z, Chen L, Ji HL, Tse HF, Fu QL, Lian Q.
Cell Death Dis. 2016 Jan 21;7:e2062. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2015.327. Review.

Update on mesenchymal stem cell-based therapy in lupus and scleroderma.
Cras A, Farge D, Carmoi T, Lataillade JJ, Wang DD, Sun L.
Arthritis Res Ther. 2015 Nov 3;17:301. doi: 10.1186/s13075-015- 0819-7. Review.