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Definition of Immune tolerance

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Immune tolerance: A state of unresponsiveness to a specific antigen or group of antigens to which a person is normally responsive. Immune tolerance is achieved under conditions that suppress the immune reaction and is not just the absence of a immune response.

Immune tolerance can result from a number of causes including:

  • Prior contact with the same antigen in fetal life or in the newborn period when the immune system is not yet mature;
  • Prior contact with the antigen in extremely high or low doses;
  • Exposure to radiation, chemotherapy drugs, or other agents that impair the immune system;
  • Heritable diseases of the immune system;
  • Acquired diseases of the immune system such as HIV/AIDS.

Immune tolerance can be defined as a state in which a T cell can no longer respond to antigen. The T cell "tolerates" the antigen.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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