Published By: Environmental Health Perspectives
Contributors: Rebecca Renner
Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus seem to be the product of a complex and poorly understood interaction between environmental exposures and genetic predisposition. Autoantibodies may be markers of subclinical disease, so epidemiological studies that look for autoantibodies in populations exposed to likely environmental triggers offer one possible way to better understand this gene–environment interaction. To study whether asbestos could be such an environmental trigger, Jean Pfau and colleagues at the University of Montana in Missoula went to the nearby town of Libby, where they found evidence that asbestos exposure may indeed induce autoimmunity [EHP 113:25–30].