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The immune system - when does a friend become an enemy?

NEWS RELEASE    I    3 August 2016

The immune system is designed to protect our bodies against disease, but it can have a darker side, says a Victoria University of Wellington researcher.

Professor Anne La Flamme has spent over 20 years researching immune regulation—how the immune system balances its responses to infection.

As she will explain in her upcoming inaugural lecture, the immune system can misbalance its responses either too strongly or too weakly.

“Our immune system battles to minimise damage and optimise our health, often very successfully,” she says.

“But when the immune system wrongly interprets signals or becomes misdirected, this can cause it to attack its own healthy cells and tissues—known as autoimmunity”.

There are more than 80 illnesses caused by autoimmunity, including Crohn’s and Grave’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Professor La Flamme’s lecture will outline the usefulness of immunity, how the human body survives microbes that escape the immune system, and its far-reaching implications.

She will also discuss why autoimmunity develops, how it causes multiple sclerosis, and ways in which can we use our knowledge of the immune system to treat autoimmunity or prevent it from ever happening.

Next week’s lecture marks Professor La Flamme’s promotion to Professor of Immunology at Victoria University. She also heads the Multiple Sclerosis Research Programme at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.


The immune system - when does a friend become an enemy?

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