Plasma cells or B cells of patients with autoimmune diseases produce antibodies directed against their own tissues. Over the past 40 years, both serendipity and the development of new techniques have led to a variety of serologic tests for the detection of such antibodies. An objective of many investigators has been to determine the specificity of these antibodies in order to delineate subsets of autoimmune diseases (Table 1). The purpose of this editorial is to trace the development of some of the techniques, their applications, and problems. It will become apparent that advancing technology does not necessarily lead to a simplified picture with respect to antibody specificity and disease states.
The lupus erythematosus (LE) cell test was the first serologic method for detecting systemic LE (SLE). Its origin dates from 1945, when Hargraves, from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn, visited Schleicher and Sharp at Minneapolis General Hospital and learned a
Lerner EA, Lerner MR. Whither the ANA?. Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(3):358-362. doi:10.1001/archderm.1987.01660270096023