The role of metals in autoimmunity
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Current available literature indicates a risk for metal-induced autoimmunity in man. Metal pathology may be due to toxic or allergic mechanisms where both may play a role. The main factors decisive for disease induced by metals are exposure and genetics which determine the individual detoxifying capacity and sensitivity to metals. This paper reviews the possible mechanisms which may play a role in metal-induced autoimmunity with the emphasis on multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We also discuss the role of inflammation-induced changes in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis as a possible explanation of fatigue, depression and other psychosomatic symptoms observed in these diseases. The increased knowledge about individual sensitivity based on genotype and phenotype variability together with the use of biomarkers for the diagnosis of this individual susceptibility seems to be the key in elucidation of the operating mechanisms. Since metal-induced sensitization may be induced by chronic low-dose exposure, the conventional toxicological approach comparing concentrations of metals in brain autopsies, organ biopsies and body fluids in patients and controls may not provide answers regarding the metal-pathology connection. To address this issue, longitudinal studies of metal-sensitive patients are preferable to the traditional case-control studies.Download Full Article