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Artemisinins: Promising drug candidates for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the immune system's attack on one's own tissues which are highly diverse and diseases differ in severity, causing damage in virtually all human systems including connective tissue (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis), neurological system (e.g., multiple sclerosis) and digestive system (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease). Historically, treatments normally include pain-killing medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressant drugs. However, given the above characteristics, treatment of autoimmune diseases has always been a challenge. Artemisinin is a natural sesquiterpene lactone initially extracted and separated from Chinese medicine Artemisia annua L., which has a long history of curing malaria. Artemisinin's derivatives such as artesunate, dihydroartemisinin, artemether, artemisitene, and so forth, are a family of artemisinins with antimalarial activity. Over the past decades, accumulating evidence have indicated the promising therapeutic potential of artemisinins in autoimmune diseases. Herein, we systematically summarized the research regarding the immunoregulatory properties of artemisinins including artemisinin and its derivatives, discussing their potential therapeutic viability toward major autoimmune diseases and the underlying mechanisms. This review will provide new directions for basic research and clinical translational medicine of artemisinins.

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