Long-lasting tolerance can be produced by prenatal or perinatal exposure to foreign antigens. Self-tolerance results from embryonic exposure to antigens of the host itself. Several mechanisms that contribute to self-tolerance have been described. They include clonal deletion, anergy, and active suppression. A failure in these mechanisms may lead to autoimmune disease. Some important human diseases are associated with autoimmunity, and immunomethods are regularly employed for their diagnosis. In the future immunomethods will prove to be valuable for the identification of subjects at risk of developing autoimmune disease, thereby permitting preventive interventions.
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