Fred Hutch, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and UW Medicine Complete Restructure of Partnership

Learn More

Autoimmune Diseases

The immune system is the complex community of cells and proteins that usually fight infection or destroy diseased cells. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks normal, healthy tissue.

Different autoimmune diseases affect different tissues, and they are caused by different underlying immune system defects. For example, in multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheaths that insulate nerves are damaged. Lupus may affect many different tissues, including the joints and skin. Rheumatoid arthritis results in swollen, stiff and painful joints, particularly in the hands and wrists. And in scleroderma, the skin is primarily affected, although the blood vessels, muscles and internal organs may also be damaged.

Fred Hutch researchers are working to understand why the immune system sometimes turns on healthy tissue. They are also harnessing a breakthrough cancer-fighting treatment to heal autoimmunity.

Researchers and Patient Treatments

Dr. George Georges

Our Autoimmune Disease Researchers

Our interdisciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases as well as cancers and other diseases.

MEET OUR FACULTY
Crohn's disease patient Elise Elholm

Patient Treatment & Care

At Fred Hutch, our interdisciplinary teams work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our aim is to provide patients access to advanced treatment options while getting the best cancer care.

Request An Appointment

Selected Autoimmune Disease Clinical Trials

Clinical research is an essential part of the scientific process that leads to new treatments and better care. Clinical trials can also be a way for patients to get early access to new cutting-edge therapies. Our clinical research teams are running clinical studies on several kinds of autoimmune diseases.

Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation for Multiple Sclerosis

The latest research shows that for more than 20 years, autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant has been an effective treatment for those with highly active relapsing-remitting MS that doesn't respond well to medications. It could also be useful for treating progressive forms of the disease.

Allogeneic Transplant Clinical Trial

Autoimmune Neurologic Disease

In autoimmune neurological diseases, the patient's own immune system attacks the nervous system which might include the brain/spinal cord and/or the peripheral nerves. Researchers are working to identify therapies that may help stop the immune system from attacking a patients nervous system.

Neurologic Disease Clinical Trial

See all Autoimmune Disease Clinical Trials

Autoimmune Disease Research

We are applying our deep knowledge of the immune system to better understand, prevent and treat autoimmune diseases. 

Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplantation

We pioneered the use of bone marrow transplants to cure leukemia. Now our researchers are studying its use to treat autoimmune diseases.

Replacing a patient’s self-attacking immune system with healthy cells can reverse or alleviate certain autoimmune diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis, and scleroderma.

Patients with severe autoimmune disease can receive an autologous, or self-derived, transplant. Their own stem cells are isolated from their blood, then given back to replenish their immune system without the disease-causing cells. Alternatively, the transplanted stem cells can come from a healthy donor.

Understanding the Causes of Autoimmunity

Focusing particularly on scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, our researchers seek to understand the causes of autoimmune diseases. Their investigations range from the underlying cellular and molecular processes that go awry in autoimmunity to the role of microchimerism, in which one individual has a small number of cells originating from a different individual.

The most common type of microchimerism, known as microchimerism of fetal origin, occurs as a result of pregnancy when some of a fetus’ cells cross the placenta and take root in the mother’s body. Similarly, maternal cells often take up residence in a developing fetus. Every person likely harbors cells at least from their mother. A woman who has been pregnant can harbor cells of different origins, from her pregnancies as well as from her own mother.

Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplantation

+

We pioneered the use of bone marrow transplants to cure leukemia. Now Hutch researchers study its use in autoimmunity.

The immune system is the source of autoimmune disease. So replacing a patient’s self-attacking immune system with healthy cells can reverse or alleviate their condition. Only patients with certain autoimmune diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis and scleroderma, undergo these kinds of treatments.

Patients with severe autoimmune disease can receive an autologous, or self-derived, transplant. Their own stem cells are isolated from their blood, then given back to replenish their immune system without the disease-causing cells. Alternatively, the transplanted stem cells can come from a healthy donor. 

Understanding the Causes of Autoimmunity

+

Our investigators seek to understand the causes of autoimmunity.

Focusing particularly on scleroderma, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, Hutch scientists aim to untangle the role that microchimerism may play in autoimmunity.

Chimeras are a mix of cells from different individuals. The most common type, known as microchimerism of fetal origin, occurs as a result of pregnancy, when some of a fetus’ cells cross the placenta and take root in the mother’s body. Similarly, maternal cells often take up residence in a developing fetus. Every person is likely a chimera, at least harboring cells from their mother. A woman who has been pregnant can harbor cells of different origins, from her pregnancies as well as from her own mother.

Other Hutch investigators study the underlying cellular and molecular processes that go awry in autoimmunity.

Latest Autoimmune Diseases News

SEE ALL AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE NEWS
5 reasons why a cancer research center has virology expertise Pathogens can cause diseases, the immune system can fight them March 18, 2021
Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem elected vice president of American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy After serving 1 year as vice president, Kiem will serve as president-elect and president of the society May 4, 2020
Inside scorpion venom: A future Rx for arthritis? Tiny scorpion-derived proteins deliver arthritis drugs to joints in rat study March 4, 2020
The link between baby’s cells and mom’s disease risk Why does mom’s risk for rheumatoid arthritis skyrocket when her baby has a gene that protects against it? September 9, 2019
Last Modified, September 21, 2022