Something unknowable in immunology? Simple logic?

Jeremy Creighton Ahouse ahouse at
Wed Jan 19 18:43:43 EST 1994

Don Forsdyke wrote:
>...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?

   Don suggests a protein to RNA to DNA "mechanism" as a way to deal
with this.  Granted this is a way.  I suspect that Coutinho, et. al.
were supposing that given what they (we?) currently (circa 1992)
envisioned was plausible there was no way that a discrimination of
self/non-self could be set up, _if_ we mean by self/non-self categories
that correspond with self = cell proteins/carbohydrates derived from
"our" cells and non-self being everything else in the universe.

   There are a number of ways to engage this observation.  We just
kicked this bucket around in the lab and I think a general consensus is
that the notion of self/non-self categories like these are a bit
flawed.  We found ourselves more comfortable with reactive and
non-reactive, especially if we note that generalized cellular response
coincides with good Ab production.  Note the importance of adjuvant
when asking a rabbit to make some polyclonal immune serum.  It still
leaves us with the challenge of "ignoring" self.  But if we combine
thymic deletion with the need for other cellular activators we might be
most of the way there.



Jeremy Creighton Ahouse
Biology and Center for Complex Systems
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA 02254-9110

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