Immunity to self and self-maintenance: what can tumor immunology teach us about ALS and Alzheimer's disease?
Mounting evidence from the last decade has shown that the immune system not only fights pathogens but also protects the body against cancer. More recently, immune surveillance has been shown to be important for maintaining the functional integrity of the central nervous system. The immune system, however, does not always prevail; tumors do grow and eventually kill their host, and devastating neurodegenerative conditions do develop. Neurodegenerative diseases, like tumors, lie dormant long before clinical symptoms appear. We propose that at this dormant stage, an ongoing competition between the local disease-causing factors and the immune system's attempts to contain them takes place. Onset of clinical symptoms occurs after disease-causing factors escape immune surveillance. Identifying the immune escape mechanisms and circumventing them soon after the emergence of clinical symptoms could lead to the development of novel therapeutic intervention for some of the most devastating neurodegenerative disorders.
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