The real role of the immune system

Psycler psycler at netcom.com
Thu May 11 21:36:16 EST 1995


: In article, mrc7 at cus.cam.ac.uk (Dr M.R. Clark) 
: writes:

: >Where I would start to agree with you in part is that the arguments about
: self/non-self are ideas imposed upon the study of the immune system by
: immunologists.  Much classical immunology is based upon experiments where 
: tissues are tranplanted from one 
: animal to another or effector cells are asked 
: to descriminate in-vitro between self or non-self tissues infected with
: virus etc. Clearly these situations are "artificial" and not generally
: encountered as the immune system evolved. However that doesn't mean
: to say we can't use the results from these studies to interpret the
: normal role of the immune system.

cthoburn at welchlink.welch.jhu.edu (ChrisThoburn) responded:
: Actually I think that this is flawed logic.  
: These types of results can be used 
: to generate a better guess at how components 
: of the immune system may work, but 
: I don't think one should assume that the 
: components necessarily work the same 
: once assembled.  I think that interpretation of 
: the 'normal' role of the immune 
: system must be drawn from experiments on a 'normal' immune system.

I follow your ideas and I am trying to figure out a way to test it
according to your parameters. In general, when I set out to do an
experiment, I am asking the question: What happens if I do this?
I am looking at a default state in which, upon introducing some
predefined variable, may cause a shift away from that state. Okay,
so in order to experiment on a normal immune system, what variables
can I introduce that will maintain that state of normality?  I'm sure
there are lots that will qualify, but in the end, I'm not sure I've 
learned anything new.

I hope you don't think I am being picky, but I need to ask these
questions to understand your ideas. On the other hand, perhaps I have
misunderstood and simply gone off on an irrelevant tangent. Please
advise me if this is the case. If not, how would you answer these questions?

As far a role for the immune system other than to 'protect', well I might
buy a role of communication instead of protect. I think the immune
system could function as a mediator of information between the nervous,
endocrine, and circulatory systems, and perhaps others as well. For
that case, all of the bodily systems may be involved in communication,
since it would be strange to exclude them from not interacting with
other systems in the body. 

I would venture to say that role of the immune system or any system, is
plural and perhaps of an indefinite/infinite (?) number of roles. It
depends on how much I generalize when looking at the big picture or
how much I get specific when looking at the small picture. It also
depends on how much I let semantics play a role in thoughts. I am
not so much concerned with semantics as I am with knowing if something
new has been learned or realized or that my understanding has increased. 
For instance, if I assume that the role of the immune system is to communicate
with the nervous system, then I come to accept that the role of immune
system is to regulate (or control as you stated) interaction between
my body and other organisms (microbial, etc.), it would be easy to identify
overlap in these functions and label it semantics. But my internal
model has changed and that's what's important for me. I think we can
discuss at length how to distort our internal models of what the media
has presented as a role for the immune system and I see no boundaries
to this distortion. As I inferred from your previous post, I too think
that media offers a lot of political diatribe which I myself have
made some contributions. :)

TKendrick



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