Here's what researchers believe happens. Antibody-producing B cells develop in the bone marrow. The body tests the cells to determine if their antigen receptors might confuse self tissues for foreign invaders. If confusion might occur a process called "receptor editing" occurs whereby receptors are rearranged to produce non-autoreactive versions or they are just killed off in the bone marrow.
But a small number slip out of the bone marrow into the body as mature B cells and they may play a role in the self attack. In mice, researchers found that escaped cells were stopped in an inactive state. In humans, researchers believe the escaped cells may not cause problems in healthy people but may be the precursors for self-attacking B cells in people with autoimmune diseases -- possibly because they cannot maintain the inactive status.
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