The big three: cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disease

In the memory of Dr. Rose

Dr. Noel Rose died on 30 July, at home in Brookline, Massachusetts, at age of 92. Anyone who is in some way involved with autoimmunity knows Dr. Rose, the father of autoimmunity. He came with the idea that the body can launch an immune response against its own tissues and organs with which established an entirely new scientific discipline: autoimmunity.

His revolutionary work has started in 1956, when he discovered that Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism could be reproduced in experimental animals by immunization with thyroglobulin.

Rose extracted a protein thyroglobulin from humans, horses, and pigs, and injected it into rabbits. Even though the injected thyroglobulin was similar to the protein already present in the rabbits’ body, the animals still produced protective antibodies. This showed that animals produced an immune response that led to inflammation and destroying of thyroid glands. When he looked at the thyroids of these rabbits, he found that they were often damaged, and sometimes destroyed, by the body’s own immune response. Later he showed that this same destruction applies to humans and that you could induce a disease in an organ or tissue when immunizing it with a specific antigen of the same species serum taken from patients developed the same type of antibodies when exposed to thyroglobulin that they had seen in rabbits.

Dr. Rose looked upon autoimmune diseases as one of the big three: cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disease. He appealed to look at autoimmune diseases as a family instead of as separate diseases. And last but not least Dr. Rose believed that it is essential to step in the autoimmunity train as soon as possible. As he said: ‘What we want to do is avoid the train wreck from the beginning, and I think we can begin to do that.’

Thank you, Dr, Noel Rose, for all the magnificent work you have done and the heritage you are giving us. Let’s all of us: scientists, medical professionals, patients, and governments work together and contribute to the prevention of the train to wreck from the beginning.

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