Autoimmune diseases are traditionally viewed as an outcome of a malfunctioning of the immune system, in which an individual's immune system reacts against the body's own proteins. In multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the white matter of the central nervous system (CNS), the attack is directed against myelin proteins. In this article we summarize a paradigm shift proposed by us in the perception of autoimmune disease. Observations by our group indicating that an autoimmune response is the body's mechanism for coping with CNS damage led us to suggest that all individuals are apparently endowed with a purposeful autoimmune response to CNS injuries, but have only limited inherent ability to control this response so that its effect will be beneficial. In animals susceptible to autoimmune diseases, the same autoimmune T cells are responsible both for neuroprotection and for disease development; the timing and strength of their activity will determine which of these effects is expressed. Individuals with non-inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases need a heightened autoimmunity. We discovered that autoimmunity could be boosted without risk of disease induction, even in susceptible strains, by the use of Copolymer-1 (Copaxone®), a weak agonist of a wide range of self-reactive T cells. Here we summarize the basic findings that led us to formulate the concept of protective autoimmunity, the mechanisms underlying its constitutive presence and its on/off regulation, and its therapeutic implications. We also offer an explanation for the commonly observed presence of cells and antibodies directed against self-components in healthy individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-166
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2005


  • CNS injury
  • EAE
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Neuroprotection
  • Protective autoimmunity


Dive into the research topics of 'Protective autoimmunity and neuroprotection in inflammatory and noninflammatory neurodegenerative diseases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this