Unmet Challenges in Immune-Mediated Hepatobiliary Diseases

Ulrich Beuers, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


It is ironic that the liver, which serves a critical function in immune tolerance, itself becomes the victim of an autoimmune attack. Indeed, liver autoimmunity and the autoimmune diseases associated with both innate and adaptive responses to hepatocytes and/or cholangiocytes are models of human autoimmunity. For example, in primary biliary cirrhosis, there exists a well-defined and characteristic autoantibody and considerable homogeneity between patients. In autoimmune hepatitis, there are clinical characteristics that allow a rigorous subset definition and well-defined inflammatory infiltrates. In both cases, there are defects in a variety of immune pathways and including regulatory cells. In primary sclerosing cholangitis, with its characteristic overlap with inflammatory bowel disease, there are unique defects in innate immunity and particular important contribution of lymphoid homing to disease pathogenesis. In these diseases, as with other human autoimmune processes, there is the critical understanding that pathogenesis requires a genetic background, but is determined by environmental features, and indeed the concordance of these diseases in identical twins highlights the stochastic nature of immunopathology. Unfortunately, despite major advances in basic immunology and in immunopathology in these diseases, there remains a major void in therapy. The newer biologics that are so widely used in rheumatology, neurology, and gastroenterology have not yet seen success in autoimmune liver disease. Future efforts will depend on more rigorous molecular biology and systems analysis in order for successful application to be made to patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-131
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Biologics
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetics
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Progressive sclerosing cholangitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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