Autoimmune neurological diseases also exist and their consequences in the brain are unimaginable. In addition, thanks to the work of Dr. Josep Dalmau, awarded by the Lilly Foundation this Wednesday throughout his career, which has been dedicated to this type of conditions, now it's easier to diagnose and cure them.
O autoimmune sinaptorragias they are "very rare diseases" and are caused by a malfunction of the synapses, that is, of the connections between the neurons through the neurotransmitters, as explained Dr. Dalamau during the press conference given by the Lilly Foundation. . The problem is that it is not only these therapies that cause them, they have been around for a long time, but their cause has never been given. conditions that could become mortal. However, the studies of Dalmau, an ICREA researcher since 2011 who, moreover, is one of the most influential neurologists worldwide in the specialties of neuroimmunology and neuro-oncology, have found a group of autoimmune neurological diseases and there are already 16 since 2007, as he himself explained to the press.
These diseases neurological manifestations with symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, coma, abnormal movements, epileptic seizures, paralysis … Even, in some cases, "it may seem like a pure psychiatric picture," he says. People affected by this type of disease are usually children and young adults and their consequences, often fatal.
When the immune system turns against the brain
But what causes autoimmune synaptic? The problem is, above all, in the immune system. Our body defends itself from the cells that are harmful to us, hence the symptoms like mucus or fever. Therefore, the The main function of our immune system is to defend ourselves. However, if you make a mistake, you can fight the cells of your own body and thus cause problems.
The causes of these diseases may be tumors "that express proteins that are normally expressed only in neurons." "The presence of these proteins in an abnormal tissue, such as the tumor, immune response directed not only against the tumor, but against the brain cells which express this protein, "explained Dalmau. This results in an inflammation and an immune attack on the brain, "causing a multitude of symptoms.
Something similar can happen to a viral infection of the nervous system: "During the infection, the release of neuronal proteins exposed to the immune system generates the autoimmune response," said the neurologist. "There is a possibility that the same virus has proteins that resemble those of the nervous system, confusing the immune system and initiating autoimmune response not only against the virus but also against the brain"he says.
Treat these diseases
Dalmau's work, now recognized by the Lilly Foundation, but also with other international awards, such as the Jacoby Award from the American Association of Neurology (ANA) in 2010, consists of discover the mechanism where these conditions occur and make the description so that doctors can diagnose them. He also developed several tests, both blood and cerebrospinal fluid, to facilitate its localization.
This is very important because until the studies done by Dr. Dalmau have not started, most of these diseases they were of unknown origin and now not only can all be classified under the same label (autoimmune synaptopaths), but they can also be treated. "The consequences of this are important if we take into account that these are serious diseases that can cause death, but that many are curable with immunotherapy"he concluded.