military inspiration and theoretical immunology

Pierre sonigo at
Thu Feb 10 16:02:48 EST 2000

"Pierre" <sonigo at> a écrit dans le message news: ...
> "D Forsdyke" <forsdyke1 at> wrote: 38A20F8F.1837C940 at
> > Hello,
> >         BEFORE we all go rushing to the literature, why not do
> > a bit of thinking? What is "danger"? It is a word applied when
> > one has a certain sort of information about something. For example,
> > as you approach a sunny beach you might be confronted with a sign
> > saying "DANGER. LAND-MINES". In order to write that sign, someone
> > had to discern that among the objects on the beach there were some
> > compatible with humans (sand, pebbles, weed), and some incompatible
> > ("land-mines").
> >
> >     Thus, first there was a binary discrimination event. The
> > decision to use the "D-word" either followed or did not follow
> > this event. In biological systems, a convenient nomenclature
> > for this binary decision-making process is that it involves
> > discrimination between "self" and "not-self".
> >
> >      The ability to carry out this discrimination is SO important
> > that it is likely to have arisen among the very first living forms
> > (unicellular). The mechanisms which evolved there may then have been
> > modified and adapted when multicellular organisms arose.
> <snip>
> Good point. Immunology is born during a war, and is still inspired by
> military conceptions. Let's summarize :
> Initial hypothesis : the immune system attacks the enemy because it has a
> different uniform (structure).
> Revised hypothesis 1 (Matzinger) : the immune system attacks the enemy
> because it is dangerous.
> Revised hypothesis 2 (Zinkernagel) : the immune system attacks the ennemy
> because it does not respect the frontiers.
> Revised hypothesis 3 (Cunliffe) : the immune system attacks the enemy
> because it is messy.
> Evolutionary corolary : the origin of the immune system is the primitive
> immune system. The function of the primitive immune system was to fight
> primitive enemies. It was strongly selected because if we are killed by
> enemies, we are dead.
> Static/binary/qualitative classifications such as self/nonself
> danger/nondanger mess/nonmess are -whatever the semantics- formal
> of good/bad and are difficult to accept in a modern scientific
> Modern immunology is a bunch of old ideas hidden in a pseudo-technical
> I worked for years on AIDS vaccines and I sadly realize that we lack true
> concepts to build our vaccination protocols and still do not understand
> Jenner eradicated smallpox.
> Sorry to be a little provocative. Do not take it too seriously. I just
> to stimulate discussions in the NG. I suggest, before reading recent
> to enjoy the wonderful historical papers placed online by Dr Forsdyke
> (thanks !)
> I will suggest my prefered second step later ;)
> Regards
> Pierre

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