Scientists are uncovering new complexities in the innermost workings of the human immune system that could make big differences for patients with autoimmune diseases. Thousands of Americans are diagnosed with these disorders each year as cells in their bodies that normally attack invaders like bacteria and viruses instead turn their fury on the body’s own tissues. For decades, scientists assumed that these disorders were caused mostly by bad instructions to the cells that serve as the immune system’s attack dogs. Two “leash” proteins and a communication protein appear to help keep these trigger-happy cells from erupting into friendly fire.
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