Auto-immune diseases - Immunoadsorption

The role of the human defense system, the so-called immune system, is to protect the organism from outside influences such as viruses, bacteria or infectious argents. This happens with the help of special proteins, the so-called antibodies and other immune cells which the immune system provides. The term auto-immune disease includes diseases in which the immune system reacts incorrectly and as a result recognizes and attacks endogenous tissue as foreign bodies. Depending on the nature of the disease, different regions of the body will be erroneously attacked. Antibodies which are directed against endogenous cells and proteins are called auto-antibodies

Immunoadsorption - targeted removal of auto-antibodies

For patients who suffer from serious forms of auto-immune diseases involving antibodies and for which traditional therapies are no longer effective, Immunoadsorption (or immune apheresis) is an effective therapy proven in clinical practice. With Immunoadsorption, auto-antibodies are removed in a targeted way; the patient gets his own, cleansed plasma back. Immunoadsorption is used for the treatment of numerous clinical conditions. These include: 

Immunoadsorption: Antibodies and immune system complexes from plasma are specifically bound to microscopically small globules with a special surface structure

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that can progress very differently in different patients. It is often characterized by an episodical progression but can also advance chronically. It affects the central nervous system (CNS) and is probably caused by the attack of auto-antibodies and endogenous immune cells to the insulating layer of the nerves (myelin sheath). This impairment of the nerve sheaths then leads to different symptoms, depending on which area of the brain is affected. In terms of the exact causes of the damage to the CNS, different subtypes of the disease are differentiated. Immunoadsorption can be a therapeutic option for severe multiple sclerosis episodes where cortisone does not work. 

For more information:

Immunoadsorption in multiple sclerosis: report in the magazine  "aktiv" of the German Multiple Sclerosis Society, DMSG (presently only available in German)  pdf_symbol.png

Plasmapheresis in multiple sclerosis, report in the journal "Together" at (AMSEL, National Association of the DMSG in Baden-Württemberg e.V.) (presently only available in German)

Auto-immune encephalitis

 Auto-immune encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain in which antibodies are brain auto-detectable. An example of such a protein is the NMDA receptor (N-methyl-D-aspartate-receptor) that plays an important role in the brain for signal transmitting. In this case, one speaks of anti-NMDA- receptor encephalitis. The disease is characterized by serious psychological symptoms (e.g. hallucinations), epileptic seizures and severe impairments of consciousness. 

Guillian-Barré syndrome (GBS)

The Guillian-Barré syndrome is a disease of the peripheral nerves where auto-antibodies turn against the insulating layer (myelin sheath) of the nerves which are outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves). As a result, the conduction velocity of the affected nerves continues to decrease until function is completely lost. It results in increasing numbness (often symptoms start in the legs) and signs of paralysis of the arms and legs. 

For more information:

Interview with an affected patient (presently only available in German)  pdf_symbol.png

State Association German GBS-Association e.V., Information on Plasmapheresis with GBS in GBS magazine, 2000 No.3 (presently only available in German)

CIDP (chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy)

The CIDP is also known as the chronic form of Guillian-Barré syndrome. 

Myasthenia gravis (severe muscle weakness)

In myasthenia, auto-antibodies turn against receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which are located at the motor end plate, the connection between nerve and muscle tissue. This blocks the stimulus transmission from the nerves to the affected muscle groups. As a consequence, the muscles can no longer be energized and "controlled" by the brain. The result is a fluctuating muscle weakness and even paralysis. 

Further indications

Other diseases which cannot be treated with medication alone and for which Immunoadsorption is successfully used: 

  • Neuromyelitis optica
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematodes (SLE)
  • Stiff-Person syndrome
  • Lambert-Eaton syndrome. 


Immunoadsorption, also called immune apheresis, is an established procedure in which the blood is cleansed outside the body. Similar to blood donations, the blood is taken slowly and continuously from a vein in the arm. To do this, the blood is first separated into blood cells and blood fluid (plasma). The plasma is "cleansed" after the separation of the blood cells with the use of an adsorber (tryptophan adsorber Immusorba® TR-350). 

Principle of Imunoadsorption

The antibodies and other complexes of the immune system are specifically removed (adsorbed). The cleansed blood is then returned to the patient via another vein. Immunoadsorption therapy is an alternative and complementary treatment to traditional therapies of specific auto-immune diseases. The treatment usually lasts two to three hours. The frequency of the treatment depends on the specific disease and the severity of the symptoms. 

For more information

Tryptophan Immunoadsorbtion - quick and targeted auto-immunity treatment

General infomation on apheresis

In principle, we recommend that you consult the doctor who is treating you.

For a better understanding of other technical terms, please also refer to our glossary

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