Authors
Bartlomiej Swiatczak
University of Science and Technology of China
Abstract
The immune system does not just fight pathogens but also engages in interactions with beneficial microbes and non-immune cells of the body to harmonize their behavior by means of cytokines, antibodies and effector cells (Dinarello, 2007; Moticka, 2015, pp. 217e226, 261e267). However, the importance of these “housekeeping” functions has not been fully appreciated (Cohen, 2000). In his new book Immunity: The Evolution of an Idea Alfred I. Tauber traces the history of fundamental ideas in immunology and refers to recent advances in the field to overturn the notion that immunity is the ability of an autonomous organism to protect itself against pathogens. Indeed, as suggested by the author, the autonomy of the organism is illusive because individuals develop as holobionts: functionally integrated multispecies consortia (p. 98). Similarly, he suggests that pathogenicity also emerges from the lack of subordination of a microbe to social welfare of the holobiont rather than from context-independent properties of this organism (pp. 165, 181). Emphasizing the contextual character of the parasite and the host, Tauber redefines immunity as an active process of coordination of a cellular ecosystem, which allows this collective to navigate through challenges of the environment and to face demands of the communal living (pp. 10e16). From this point of view, the failure to modulate intercellular interactions by the immune system entails mitigating immunity and impairing resistance to infection and disease (pp. 103e104). Immunity is a groundbreaking work establishing a new framework for understanding the function and activity of the immune system. Its value also lies in the fact that it serves as an important stepping-stone towards an integrated philosophical, ecological and immunological study of our embedment in the microbial world.
Keywords immunity  immune system  ecological view  paradigm in science  self nonself model  metaphor
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