Danger vs. self/non-self model

Ian A. York iayork at panix.com
Tue Jul 1 09:35:52 EST 1997

In article <33B84A2A.5CC8 at ntu.ac.uk>,  <fd601220 at ntu.ac.uk> wrote:
>RecentHorizon tv prog convinces me that the self/non-self model is
>how will the fact that the 'danger' model isv.prob. the case change
>immunological treatments + reserch.How duz the danger model explain
>food allergies+  rejection of foreign grafts?

I'm half with you.  The "self/non-self" model isn't entirely correct.  On
the other hand, the "danger" model is also not entirely correct, and in
my opinion it is less correct than the self/non-self.

My strongest feeling is that no model of the immune system is correct,
nor can it possibly be correct.  The immune system is a thing unto
itself, which happened rather than being created; as such it's a mishmash
of things that work.  It is not a tidy toy railroad that can be easily
reduced to an aphorism like "danger" or "self/non-self", as if it
depended on advertising jingles for its effectiveness.  In other words,
the claim that *this* model is wrong therefore *that* model is right is
rather a silly one.

That being said, it seems to me that the "danger" model makes more
incorrect predictions than does the "self/non-self" model.  It's trivial
to make immune responses to innocuous antigens--ovalbumin, KLH.  It may be
said that the mode of administration (injection, for example) leads to
some trauma that triggers the immune response.  Problem is, the degree of
trauma associated with this is on the same order of magnitude as ongoing,
perpetual trauma due to, oh, bumping into walls, spilling hot coffee on
your hand, or getting bitten by a flea (if you're a mouse, that is; I mean
no criticism of your persoanl hygiene). If this degree of trauma is all
that's necessary for the "danger" signal, then there's always a danger
signal, and so the model predicts a perpetually "on" system.  If so, the
model is useless, because you still need other explanations for immune

Matzinger and Fuchs probably have some answers for this, but as I say I
think that any attempt to reduce the immune system to a single model is

Incidentally, I strongly doubt that a TV program can even come close to
explaining both sides of the issue; before making a decision one way or
another, I'd suggest you read the actual articles and criticism.


      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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