The Immune System – Pioneers

The Immune System – Pioneers.

Paul Ehrlich

I happened upon the Nobel Prize page for early Immune system pioneers… Yay for early immune system pioneers! The page features Ilya Mechnikov and his experiments of sticking thorns into larvae and Paul Ehrlich’s research surrounding his “side-chain theory” which was to become the beginning of our understandings of antibodies. I am most intrigued by Ehrlich’s statement that “as a condition of life, organisms should not be reactive against their own tissues.” (Found at Ian R. Mackay, “Autoimmunity,” in AccessScience, 2008, http://www.accessscience.com)

These early discoveries of protecting against disease because of internal bodily regulation and memory prompted our contemporary understandings of how our bodies, through the immune system, prevent disease and infection. These mechanisms, however, are also the underlying mechanisms of autoimmune diseases – where the body is indeed reactive against its own tissues. Responding to Ehrlich, can the autoimmune be considered a condition of life?

Circulating autoantibodies is normal for healthy individuals. Most people have them, but they don’t become “activated” against the body’s self-material. These conditions of autoimmunity may help to prevent other infectious diseases, like tuberculosis that I posted about previously. However, once triggered, these autoantibodies become “hyperactive” and “out-of-control.” This is still life, however, and many live with this sort of immune system. We may even be evolving towards it.

Evolution may have pushed humans toward greater risk for type 1 diabetes

Evolution may have pushed humans toward greater risk for type 1 diabetes.

This article makes the case that humans may actually be evolving towards some autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Supposedly there is a connection between RA and tuberculosis. It’s interesting to think that some of these autoimmune diseases that cause so much pain and are potentially fatal, may in fact be (somewhat) necessary violence. Is the body reconfiguring itself to prevent firm distinctions between self and other? What can this mean for the rhetoric of the autoimmune condition? Is the ability to recognize self not always needed?

Chicago Lupus Walk!

There’s going to be a Lupus walk in Chicago organized by the Lupus Foundation of America’s Illinois Chapter!  Well, 2 actually: one downtown in Grant Park (Saturday, Oct 2nd) and one in the Western Suburbs (Sunday, Oct 3rd).

This event is a fundraiser for lupus research and also a public awareness initiative.  I found a statistic from another lupus walk website – Lupus Research – one that already happened this summer, that said 2/3 of the public don’t know anything about lupus!  This is astounding!

I am going to register a team this year for at least one, maybe two!  If you would like to join my team, contact me!  meredith [dot] kooi [at] gmail [dot] com

If you would like to register as an individual or create your own team, click here.