Allergy and autoimmunity caused by metals: A unifying concept
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Metals, such as mercury, aluminum, gold, and nickel, play a role in various allergic and autoimmune diseases. This chapter discusses the factors underlying their immunotoxic properties. Mercury (in the form of thimerosal) and aluminum are both ingredients in vaccines. They can also enter the body through dental restorative materials, cigarette smoke, and environmental pollution. These metals bind to autologous proteins and thus function as immunologocally active haptens. They also possess immunomodulating properties. Metal-specific responses are mediated by sensitized T cells and depend on the genetic makeup of the individual. This means that some individuals are resistant and others are susceptible. A better understanding of the immunopathological role of metals will contribute to improved treatment of immune-mediated diseases and hopefully to the development of safer vaccines.Download Full Article