Immune system

Tag archives for Immune system

Using the immune system to fight cancer

Cancer sucks. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that – it’s one of the leading causes of death in developed countries, and our treatment options are pretty thin. Basically, it amounts to cutting out the tumors that can be seen, and then giving a controlled administration of poison in the hopes that the…

Weekend Review: Sterile Inflammation

If you’ve ever rolled your ankle (as I have many times), you have a visceral knowledge of inflammation. Clinically, inflammation is the redness, swelling, heat and pain that’s associated with injury. From an immunologist’s perspective, it’s the set of molecular events that get the immune system going. All of the clinical systems associated with inflammation…

On Definitions: They Matter

Most of my favorite long-standing discussions with friends and family tend to resolve around definitions. My good friend Paul and I have had hours upon hours of discussion about the nature of the universe – he calls his perception of the order of the universe “god,” and I call myself an atheist (interestingly, that picture…

Saturday Review: Oral Vaccines

Last week, I talked about strategies to improve vaccine efficacy and safety. Most of those strategies were in the context of standard, inject-into-your-arm vaccines, but what about totally new delivery methods? This week, there was a review in PLoS Pathogens of strategies for generating vaccines that you can swallow: Enhancing Oral Vaccine Potency by Targeting…

Weight loss and macrophages

Macrophages are really good at gobbling stuff up. It’s all right there in the name – they are big (macro) eaters (phage). I study them in the context of the immune system – one of the things they do really well is eat up bacteria and other pathogens that have found their way into your…

I have a love/hate relationship with Nature Reviews: Immunology. It comes out once per month, and is usually packed with easy to read articles about fascinating (to me) topics, and each is filled with tons of great references so I can dig into the issue more. On the one hand, I get really excited about…

The immune system has trade-offs

Most biological systems have trade-offs, so this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. A recent paper published in Science shows that in sheep, some females have a stronger immune system and tend to live longer, but also tend to reproduce less often. This seemed to translate to roughly equal reproductive fitness over the course of…

Implications of the immune response

I started writing this post before I read ERV dissecting some “the immune system is perfect” BS. Go read hers, then come back if you want more. Now that I’ve gone through the basics of a typical immune response, I think it’s necessary to point out some of its many flaws. In many of the…

[I've been hooked on the immune system since I was a kid and my dad showed me electron micrographs of macrophages eating bacteria in Scientific American. Now that I'm in graduate school studying immunology, and macrophages in particular, my dad asked if I could give a play-by-play of an immune response. Here you go Dad:]…

Viruses are tricky buggers – they force their way into another organism’s cell and hijack its machienery to utilize for their own nefarious purposes. This is clearly pretty harmful for the host so there’s been pretty strong evolutionary pressure to develop ways to stop them or slow them down (hence the immune system). But in…