Autoimmune diseases are the third most common disease after cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The prevalence of autoimmunity in the general population is about 5% and increasing.
Autoimmune diseases are diseases of the immune system which can affect the entire body. Autoimmune diseases do not only include widespread diseases like diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis; also stroke, cardiac infarction, abortion, renal failure, osteoporosis or cancer may be symptoms or late sequelae of autoimmune diseases.
While the immune system normally has the task of protecting the body against infections by producing antibodies to combat foreign bodies, e.g. bacteria, viruses and fungi, autoimmune diseases lead – for reasons widely unexplained to date – to the production of so-called antibodies which turn against the body's own tissue.
Research in finding the causes of autoimmune diseases suffers from the enormous diversity of clinical pictures. The fact that the clinical symptoms of a single autoimmune disease generally exceed the boundaries of individual specialist medical disciplines has led to the extreme decentralization of research activities.
Only the centralization of research in the field of autoimmunity can accelerate applied research in order to allow the early diagnosis and to identify effective therapies or even the cure for autoimmune diseases.