Metal-induced autoimmunity in neurological disorders: A review of current understanding and future directions

Geir Bjørklund, Aleksandra Buha Đorđević, Halla Hamdan, David R. Wallace, Massimiliano Peana

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Autoimmunity is a multifaceted disorder influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and metal exposure has been implicated as a potential catalyst, especially in autoimmune diseases affecting the central nervous system. Notably, metals like mercury, lead, and aluminum exhibit well-established neurotoxic effects, yet the precise mechanisms by which they elicit autoimmune responses in susceptible individuals remain unclear. Recent studies propose that metal-induced autoimmunity may arise from direct toxic effects on immune cells and tissues, coupled with indirect impacts on the gut microbiome and the blood-brain barrier. These effects can activate self-reactive T cells, prompting the production of autoantibodies, inflammatory responses, and tissue damage. Diagnosing metal-induced autoimmunity proves challenging due to nonspecific symptoms and a lack of reliable biomarkers. Treatment typically involves chelation therapy to eliminate excess metals and immunomodulatory agents to suppress autoimmune responses. Prevention strategies include lifestyle adjustments to reduce metal exposure and avoiding occupational and environmental risks. Prognosis is generally favorable with proper treatment; however, untreated cases may lead to autoimmune disorder progression and irreversible organ damage, particularly in the brain. Future research aims to identify genetic and environmental risk factors, enhance diagnostic precision, and explore novel treatment approaches for improved prevention and management of this intricate and debilitating disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103509
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Autoimmunity
  • Metal-induced autoimmunity
  • Neurological disorders
  • Prevention
  • Prognosis
  • Risk reduction


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