From Los Angeles, CAlifornia, USA:
Has any link has been established between Rh incompatibility in pregnancy and the later onset of autoimmune conditions? The way I understand it, the reason Rh can be a problem is that the Rh- mother's immune system sees the Rh+ fetus as a threat and attacks. I also am under the impression that a mother's antibodies are passed to the child. If the mother is "allergic" to the child, and the child inherits those antibodies from the mother, would the child then have antibodies to attack his or her own system?
In Rhesus incompatibility the Rh- mother's immune system makes antibodies to small numbers of Rh+ fetal cells that cross the placenta. These antibodies are re-exported to the fetus and can produce hemolysis of the fetal red blood cells. This is a normal, albeit inappropriate, response of the maternal immune system to what is percieved as a foreign protein. These antibodies have a limited life and they do not involve other tissues. In autoimmune diseases like Type 1A diabetes, the antibodies are generated to various components of the islet cells by an abnormality in a person's own immune system, hence the term 'autoimmune'. The two processes are not related beyond the fact that they are both immune responses.
Original posting 2 Nov 1999
Posted to Research: Causes and Prevention
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