is fish immune system a good model for human immune system?

Mike Clark mrc7 at cam.ac.uk
Wed May 14 07:44:49 EST 2003

In article <DC7C64EB34056C4392194793ECEBABBD011615C5 at snapper.fgcu.edu>,
Demers, Dr. Nora <URL:mailto:ndemers at fgcu.edu> wrote:
> Emilie,
> I think fish are an excellent model to study human immunity.  The
> homology among organisms if far reaching.  I study the non-specific
> immune response in fish, as a comparative immunologist.   Look at some
> journals like Developmental  and Comparative Immunology and Comparative
> Biochemistry and Physiology (parts a, b, and c).  You should quickly
> become convinced that many models are used to study immunity, and they
> are all finding similar responses as human.  It is very difficult to do
> research  on humans, while  much more acceptable to experiment on fish,
> mice, etc.   Good luck.  I hope you find immunology to be as rewarding as
> you hope. Enjoy the project.
> Nora Demers
> Nora Egan Demers
> Assistant Professor of Biology
> Florida Gulf Coast University
> Ft. Myers, FL 33965
> (239) 590-7211 FAX (239) 590-7200
> e-mail ndemers at fgcu.edu
> http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/ndemers/demers.html

You are absolutely right that we have so much to learn from comparative
studies. The only note of caution that I would add is that it is possible
to overestimate the similarities and come to misleading conclusions. For
example if you look at the mouse and the human genome sequences they are
organised in a remarkably similar way and with much homology. But if you
ask the question which families of genes are most different in the human
and the mouse genome, then you conclude that it is the gene families
associated with the immune system.

Not surprisingly one of the strongest selections there is on survival of an
individual is due to infections by pathogens. So naturally the immune
system tends to evolve faster than other gene systems. So yes there are
homologies and similarities, but there are also key difference. If there
weren't these differences then we would be susceptible to many more
xenotropic infections.

Mike                             <URL:http://www.path.cam.ac.uk/~mrc7/>
M.R. Clark, PhD. Division of Immunology
Cambridge University, Dept. Pathology
Tennis Court Rd., Cambridge CB2 1QP
Tel.+44 1223 333705  Fax.+44 1223 333875

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