Tag Archives: Science of Immune Attack

Find the fun in immunology

To build appreciation for the science of immunology, we need to find the fun in it.

Many thousands of people spend their lives in windowless laboratories, standing day in and day out, barely speaking to their silent lab mates, often working in a 4°C room, or holding their arms up for hours while they conduct their experiments inside the awkward, but sterile cell culture hood.

Why are they doing this?

They are immunologists. Immunologists address the problems of the immune system that their fellow humans have to live with, like Leukemia, AIDS, allergies and autoimmune disorders. Immunologists use biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and genetics to look for ways to help patients and prevent disease.

So, we could simply say that these immunologists are serving their fellow man. But their motivation is not simply to help mankind. Something else drives them to spend those days in a tissue culture hood counting thousands of white blood cells.

Why did these immunologists take the lab path? Why didn’t they become social workers, firemen or even medical doctors? Well, I’ll tell you. Immunology is fun. Immunology involves watching cells identify and destroy other cells. These cells appear to be very similar to every other cell in the universe. These cells have outer membranes, nuclei, DNA and proteins that are almost indistinguishable from every other cell.

The questions are why this particular cell kills bacteria. Why doesn’t this cell kill all types of bacteria? Why does this cell in some people, not kill bacteria? The answers involve making endless comparisons between healthy and sick patients, between pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria, between humans and mice and between mice and flies.

So, Immunology is a puzzle. How does the puzzle work? We collect up as many clues as we can, we make a guess, we do an experiment and we try to figure out whether our idea was correct. We compare what we thought would happen to what did happen.

We have tools we can use. And we have rules for addressing these puzzles. We have several paths that others have taken before us that guide our way: We have biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, chemistry and physics. Each of these paths have their own rules and their own tools.

If you could jump in and try out these tools, and attempt a few of the puzzles yourself, then you would understand how immunology works. You would experience the fun! This is what we are doing with Immune Attack 2.0: we are letting you play Immunology… without the hours of standing in a windowless lab.

Science of Immune Attack

Welcome to the blog about the Science of Immune Attack.  This page is just for fun reading and discussion.

The first topic is Nanotechnology.

The Nanobot in our game, Immune Attack is constructed of so far unspecified materials.   For Immune Attack 2.0, we would like to specify how our Nanobot is constructed.  We are currently working with McKinley Technology High School engineering students to answer some basic questions.  So far I have asked the students, what material could we use to build a submarine that is a the size of a cell?  How much pressure would it be able to withstand?  And could we build a “ray gun” that is this small?

National Geographic article about Nanotechnology

POLICY about Nanotechnology.

Here is the summary of a talk that was given recently on concerns about nanotechnology and what kinds of concerns we should have about constructing things that are so small that our cells can absorb them.

http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2009/0310nano.shtml