Polly Matzinger's theory

Ian A. York iayork at panix.com
Sat Jun 8 09:21:39 EST 1996

In article <9605078341.AA834192737 at WRSMTP-CCMAIL.ARMY.MIL>,
 <dr._jack_komisar at WRSMTP-CCMAIL.ARMY.MIL> wrote:
>          I heard the talk that Polly Matzinger gave at the AAI
>          convention in New Orleans, saying that the role of the
>          immune system is to discriminate danger from
>          non-dangerous substances, rather to discriminate
>          self from nonself.  The theory seems reasonable to me, but I
>          don't see how it can accomodate positive selection of
>          thymocytes (e.g., Sha et al., Nature 336:73 1988 and Mike
>          Bevan's talk at the meeting).  Does anyone have any thoughts
>          on this?

There was a long and interesting discussion on this about a year ago on
bionet.immunology.  You should be able to find the thread in the
bionet.immunology archives. 

Although I didn't make it to the talk at AAI, I've read some of the 
papers on the hypothesis (mainly the ARI article from 1994) and I don't 
like the theory particularly: not because she goes too far, but because 
she doesn't go far enough.  I fully agree that the paradigm of foreign 
versus non-foreign is inadequate; but I don't think that any paradigm 
should be imposed on the immune system at all.  

Why on earth would one expect that the entire immune system can be summed
up in a catchy 25-words-or-less phrase, like an advertising jingle?  Cells
aren't given a printout of Goals For The Day, with rewards of pink
cadillacs and holidays in the Islets of Langerhans for successfully
meeting their quota.  So why try to encapsulate the entire system in a
'paradigm?' That's simply trying to reduce a complex system into a simple
one; and Lord knows the immune system is not simple. 

I say accept that the immune system doesn't run on paradigms.  Immune 
cells recognize what they recognize, and the do whatever they do.  If you 
try to fit that into a paradigm of any kind, you'll miss the true story.

Yours in the spirit of Zen,

      Ian York   (iayork at panix.com)  <http://www.panix.com/~iayork/>
      "-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
       very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England

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