Autoimmune Diseases

More than 80 diseases occur as a result of the immune system attacking the body’s own organs, tissues, and cells. Some of the more common autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Although the causes of many autoimmune diseases remain unknown, a person’s genes in combination with infections and other environmental exposures are likely to play a significant role in disease development. Treatments are available for many autoimmune diseases, but cures have yet to be discovered.

Why is the study of Autoimmune Diseases a priority for NIAID?: 

The chronic and debilitating nature of these diseases, which can lead to high medical costs and reduced quality of life, is a burden on patients and also affects their families and communities.

How is NIAID addressing this critical topic?: 

Although researchers have made considerable progress in understanding how the immune system causes organ, tissue, and cell injury in autoimmune diseases, much remains to be learned. By supporting a broad range of basic, preclinical, and clinical research in autoimmune diseases, NIAID enhances understanding of the causes of these diseases, the genetic factors that make people susceptible to them, and the regulatory mechanisms that control the production of self-destructive antibodies.

NIAID-supported research on autoimmune diseases focuses on the immunologic basis of disease, including developing a greater understanding of the fundamental immunologic principles underlying disease onset and progression, developing improved animal models of disease, developing improved diagnostic tools, and identifying and evaluating more effective immune-based treatment and prevention strategies.

To learn about risk factors for autoimmune diseases and current prevention and treatment strategies visit the Medline Plus autoimmune diseases site.

Healthy Human T Cell

T cell from the immune system of a healthy donor.


Disease-Specific Research

NIAID supports a broad range of basic and clinical research on autoimmunity. Knowledge gained from basic research helps inform new experimental methods of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment, which are then evaluated in clinical studies.

Women's Health

Many autoimmune diseases disproportionately affect women, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Networks & Collaborations

NIAID encourages partnerships among other agencies and foundations, private industry, federal and local government and other organizations with similar goals to help build and sustain research infrastructure and to translate and implement research findings as public health practices.