Q

Immune System

What role does the thymus gland play in myasthenia gravis?

A Answers (2)

  • The thymus is a gland that contributes to the development of your immune system. It helps some of the cells that are part of your immune system become able to distinguish between foreign material and your own body. In people with myasthenia gravis, it's believed that the thymus is incorrectly instructing some of your immune system's cells to create abnormal antibodies. These antibodies mistakenly attack some of your muscle cell receptors that respond to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Since acetylcholine is used as a messenger between nerves and muscle cells, communication becomes impaired and muscle weakness develops.

  • The thymus gland is a small gland located underneath the breast bone.  It the site where white blood cells go to mature and learn how to attack foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria.  For reasons we don't understand, it is thought that in patients with MG, white blood cells learn incorrectly recognize the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) as foreign and decide to attack it thus causing the symptoms of MG.  Removal of the thymus gland can lessen the severity or cure MG in many patients. 
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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