Autoimmune diseases lack the sledgehammer impact, and therefore the instant recognition, of our other great medical afflictions such as cancer and heart disease. But as the vivid patient testimonies on pages 6-15 illustrate, they are worthy of notoriety. Insidious and nasty, difficult to diagnose, perplexing to treat, bewildering for patients to understand, and painful to live with, autoimmunity presents a series of daunting challenges.

First, there's the sheer number of conditions - roughly 80 separate autoimmune disorders each with a unique genetic-environmental trigger, each working through a specific pathological mechanism, and each generating a characteristic set of symptoms.

Second, there's the number of patients and the associated costs. Up to eight percent of the population - even more by some estimates - suffer from autoimmune disease. The overall price tag for treating autoimmune diseases approximates that of cancer and heart disease. What is more, the chronic nature...

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