The cause is not entirely clear, but is thought to be multifactorial. It has been suggested that aphthous stomatitis is not a single entity but rather a group of conditions with different causes. Multiple research studies have attempted to identify a causative organism, but aphthous stomatitis appears to be non-contagious, non-infectious, and not sexually transmissible. The mucosal destruction is thought to be the result of a T cell (T lymphocyte) mediated immune response which involves the generation of interleukins and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). Mast cells and macrophages are also involved, secreting TNF-α along with the T cells. When early aphthous ulcers are biopsied, the histologic appearance shows a dense inflammatory infiltrate, 80% of which is made up of T cells. Persons with aphthous stomatitis also have circulating lymphocytes which react with peptides 91–105 of heat shock protein 65–60, and the ratio of CD4+ T cells to CD8+ T cells in the peripheral blood of individuals with aphthous stomatitis is decreased.