Allergy and Autoimmunity at Epithelial Surfaces


Epithelial surfaces are those directly exposed to the surrounding environment, and they include the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and urogenital tract. Considering the skin and GI tract, in particular, allergic and autoimmune disease commonly affect these surfaces (see right aside) and are, in toto, prevalent, debilitating, and costly. In each of these diseases, allergen-specific and/or autoantigen-specific acquired immune response(s) appear to contribute to tissue inflammation. Thus, controlling these inflammatory immune responses in an antigen-specific manner would likely prove to be therapeutically beneficial. To understand this further, it should be instructive to consider some of the pertinent disease-driving factors and key cell types.

image from Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice, 8th Ed. image 		from Society for Mucosal Immunology

Epithelial diagrams of skin (left; from Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice, 8th Edition) and gastrointestinal tract (right; from Society for Mucosal Immunology)