Open Questions: The Immune System

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See also: Infectious diseases -- AIDS -- Avian flu -- Immune system disorders

Introduction

Distinguishing self from non-self

Memory in the immune system

Autoimmune disorders

Inflammation


Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Introduction

Few people are aware of the striking complexity of the human immune system. This is hardly surprising, since even the scientists who study it have only recently distinguished many of the important components. This includes such things as:


Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes

Open Directory Project: Immunology
Categorized and annotated links. A version of this list is at Google, with entries sorted in "page rank" order. May also be found at Netscape.
Galaxy: Allergy and Immunology
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.
Galaxy: Immunologic Diseases
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.

Sites with general resources

Biology Project: Microbiology and Immunology
Part of the University of Arizona Biology Project. There are external links and tutorials on topics such as introduction to immunology, and antibody structure.
Immune Central
Excellent site with general information on the immune system. There is a very good in-depth tutorial on the various parts of the immune system, information on diseases of the immune system (including AIDS), and health information on strengthening the immune system.
The Antibody Resource Page
General resources pages for antibody researchers. The educational resource page has many external links.
The Immune System
Presents a general overview of the immune system, as part of a portion of the U. S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Web site, which also has information on infectious diseases and immunologic diseases.
Cytokines Online Pathfinder Encyclopedia (COPE)
A very extensive encyclopedia covering all aspects of cytokine research and related topics, developed by Horst Ibelgaufts.
Immunology@nature.com
A portal to relevant Nature Publishing Group resouces in the field of immunology.

Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Immune system
Article from Wikipedia. See also Autoimmune disorder.
The Immune System
Very good single page overview of the immune system, with diagrams, provided by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Immune System
Very good single-page, but not excessively sketchy, overview of the immune system, by Paul Bugl.
Understanding the Immune System
Nice slide-show presentation of the main parts of the immune system.
Immunology
Syllabus for a university course that provides an introductory study of the mammalian immune system. There are a number of pages that outline course lectures.
The Biology Project: Microbiology & Immunology
A section of The Biology Project site dealing with the immune system and related topics. Contains good tutorials on Introduction to Immunology and Antibody Structure, among other things.
Immunology Bookcase
Summary overview information on major components of the human immune system, covering topics such as cytokines, complement, antibodies, T cells, B cells, and MHC.
Immunobiology
Complete online textbook, by Charles A. Janeway, Paul Travers, Mark Walport, Mark Shlomchik. Index. Part of the NCBI Bookshelf.
Those Wacky Evolving Antibodies
A student project at the University of Arizona. It is an investigation of how antibodies acquire the ability to recognize novel pathogens. Includes some external links.
Growth Factors and Cytokines
Summary information on cytokines such as interferon and interleukins, from the Medical Biochemistry Page.
Investigating Inflammation
September 2000 Scientific American news article about the A20 protein that can regulate the inflammatory response.
How do white blood cells recognize invaders?
May 1998 Scientific American "Ask the Experts" article. Response by Philippa Marrack.


Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Why We Develop Food Allergies
Per Brandtzaeg
American Scientist, January-February 2007
Immunity's Early-Warning System
Luke A. J. O'Neill
Scientific American, January 2005
The Long Arm of the Immune System
Jacques Banchereau
Scientific American, November 2002
Pathogens, Host-Cell Invasion and Disease
Erich Gulbins; Florian Lang
American Scientist, September-October 2001, pp. 406-413
Pathogenic infectious agents include viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. They use a variety of strategies to evade the immune system, such as taking refuge inside cells, even cells of the immune system itself.
Immunity's Eyes
John Travis
Science News, September 8, 2001, pp. 152-158
New studies show that proteins on the surface of certain immune system cells are the main way that the innate immune system senses pathogens.
Do Antibodies Pack a Deadly Punch?
John Travis
Science News, November 11, 2000, pp. 318-319
Recent research suggests that antibodies not only help the immune system identify infectious agents, but may actually participate in destroying them.
[References]
Immunity and the Invertebrates
Gregory Beck; Gail S. Habicht
Scientific American, November 1996, pp. 60-66
The immune systems of mammals and other vertebrate animals are highly complex. Yet there are either direct analogues of some system components, or at least generally similar features, which can be found evenin fairly "primitive" invertebrates. Studies of such similarities can be instructive for undertanding complex immune systems.
Sharks and the Origins of Vertebrate Immunity
Gary W. Litman
Scientific American, November 1996, pp. 67-71
The immune systems of vertebrates differ from those of invertebrates in the capability of adapting to pathogens encountered in the environment. This adaptive capability probably first appeared in vertebrate fish with jaws. Very little is known about such fish, but we know more about certain of their descendants called placoderms, and even more about subsequent phylogenetic relatives, such as sharks, skates, and rays.
How HIV Defeats the Immune System
Martin A. Nowak; Andrew J. McMichael
Scientific American, August 1995, pp. 58-65
A plausible hypothesis of how HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS illustrates many aspects of immune system operation. HIV ultimately overcomes the immune system because of rapid mutation and evolution.
How Cells Process Antigens
Victor H. Engelhard
Scientific American, August 1994, pp. 54-61
Antigens are molecular fragments that the immune system can recognize as a sign of the presence of pathogens. Such antigens may be constructed by an organism's own cells, in addition to those which come from the pathogens.
How Interferons Fight Disease
Howard M. Johnson; Fuller W. Bazer; Brian E. Szente; Michael A. Jarpe
Scientific American, May 1994, pp. 68-75
Interferons are cytokines -- small proteins that carry messages between cells. They modulate almost every component of the immune system, helping it to ward off attacks by viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing parasites.


Recommended references: Books

Esther M. Sternberg -- The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions
W. H. Freeman and Company, 2001
Sternberg, who is Director of the Integrative Neural Immune Program at the National Institute of Mental Health presents an introduction to the immune system and how it is affected by emotions, especially stress. The fact that the immune system in turn affects mood and emotion is also explained.
Lauren Sompayrac
Blackwell Science, 1999
Sompayrac explicitly states that his purpose is to present an overall picture of the constituents of the immune system and how the parts work together. It is relatively short and does not include every possible detail, because it's meant to be read through quickly to give the big pictuure. But it doesn't waste any time on things like the historical background, and it doesn't avoid the essential technical language and concepts.
Stephen S. Hall -- A Commotion in the Blood: Life, Death, and the Immune System
Henry Holt and Company, 1997
The author adopts a historical approach to describe the immune system through stories of how the most significant discoveries were made. This substantial and well-annotated (but unindexed) book covers topics such as how vaccines work, the various cells of the immune system (T-cells, B-cells), the system's chemical messengers (cytokines), and the relationship of the immune system and cancer.
Paul Martin -- The Healing Mind: The Vital Links Between Brain and Behavior, Immunity and Disease
Thomas Dunne Books, 1997
According to folk wisdom, in many cases of apparent illness, "it's all in the mind". Medical practice has long acknowledged the notion of "psychosomatic" illness. These ideas are given a more scientific basis in the study of "psychoneuroimmunology". This book delves into a number of examples of interconnection between the brain and the immune system.
William R. Clark -- At War Within: The Double-Edged Sword of Immmunity
Oxford University Press, 1995
This is another outstanding expository work by Clark. In a relatively short span he not only describes in detail the complexity of the immune system's numerous component parts, but also explains diseases caused by failures of the system (AIDS, SCID) as well as its overactivity (autoimmune diseases).

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