Something unknowable in immunology? Simple logic?

Tue Jan 18 16:11:56 EST 1994

A. Coutinho and coworkers have contributed a paper to a Forum on ideas in
immunology, published in Research in Immunology, vol 143, p. 345-354.
1992. They make the following statement:

"By confusing development of cells and organisms, all current derivates
from Lederberg's model ignore the fundamental problem of development, and
their refutation therefore requires nothing but simple logic. Thus, most
lymphocytes in the body are produced when the individual had already been
exposed to external antigens, when both self and nonself are present in
the organism. Consequently, WE SEE NO WAY [my capitals] that those
'inexperienced' lymphocytes can tell the difference, and therefore we
 submit that self/non-self discrimination must be carried out at other
levels of organization in the immune system."

   Am I missing out on something? It seems that this was the stated
problem in the late 50s and early 60s, which we had to SOLVE, not dismiss
as being logically insoluble except when "carried out at other levels of
organization". Perhaps someone can explain this to me?

   For example, here is an example of the logic which some of us as
undergraduates used to approach the problem in the early 1960s, when the
protein synthesis story (cracking the genetic code and all that) was
just unfolding. (i) Foreign proteins differ from self in that it is
unlikely that they are encoded by the host genome. (ii) Therefore,
reverse the flow of information. Instead of DNA --> RNA --> Protein,
perhaps we can turn protein information into RNA or DNA. (iii) Then
hybridize the RNA or DNA against the host genome. If a hit is found then
the protein is defined as not foreign.
   With hindsight, this was a bit far fetched. But, the point is that
it was possible logically to devise ways around the problem. Coutinho
seems to be saying that no logic is possible. Explain please someone!

   Sincerely,  Don Forsdyke Discussion Leader Bionet.immunology

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