In 2019 the world was confronted with a global pandemic. We faced the reality of a formidable enemy that threatened to kill millions and decimate the economies of the world. We have no cure, no vaccine: just our immune system. In the recesses of our fragile bodies the battle between the immune system and the virus continues, to end, either in victory or death.
We begin with the Covid-19 pandemic to illustrate how the immune system responds to a novel virus. By studying real cases we discover how the immune system whilst defeating the virus in most, contributes to lethal pathology in some.
But what are the components of the immune system? How do they work?
One way to understand this system, arguably the most complicated in human physiology, is by walking on the footprints of history: one observation and experiment at a time.
Parts 1 and 2 recounts the story of immunology, beginning with the first written record of the concept of immunity in 430 BCE, through the ensuing centuries that gave the world vaccines, organ transplantation, novel therapies for cancer and now the understanding and tools to tackle the pandemic virus. We learn through a careful examination of the key experiments carried out by the protagonists, the doctors and scientists who unravelled the mechanisms underlying immunity. We glimpse into their lives and times seeking clues to their genius, their yearning for discovery.
In Part 3 we return to Covid-19, exploring how lessons from the past can help us come up with strategies to defeat the virus. Through the lens of recent history, we learn how to manipulate the immune system to tip the scales in our favour. We explore the myriad of vaccines being tested, novel immune based therapies derived from old ideas, and interventions that might enhance protective immunity whilst damping down harmful immune responses. We search for answers.
Shantha Perera is a senior lecturer in immunology and infection at the University of Wolverhampton, UK. He has taught immunology and infectious diseases from year 1 undergraduate to masters level for nearly three decades.
He also has extensive research experience in immunology across diverse fields such as autoimmune disease, cancer immunology and more recently, psychoneuroimmunology. He has published over 20 peer reviewed primary research articles in immunology, including a publication in Nature. He has supervised several doctoral students and is a mem...
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