Immunology and Virology
Adaptive immunity is formed by a set of cells and process that allow the immune system to remember and respond to infectious agents—that is, pathogens or germs. This system is adaptive because the cells involved can generate new antibodies and receptors that allow white blood cells to recognize and respond to individual pathogens.
When an organism’s immune system fails to recognize itself, it can turn on the host and attack itself as a foreign invader. This abnormal response is called autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is often quite harmless yet can progress to a disease through genetic as well as environmental influences. Among the most severe autoimmune diseases are Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that attacks cells within the immune system, thereby causing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in which progressive failure of the immune system permits life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive.
Inflammation – appropriately derived from the Latin, inflammare, to set on fire – is how the body responds to injury or infection. It involves white blood cells, part of the immune system designed to fight off foreign pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is now believed to be a component of several major diseases including atherosclerosis, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
Influenza, known as the flu, is a serious disease with symptoms that range from chills and fever to respiratory failure and, potentially, death. Easily transmitted through the air, as well as by direct contact, the influenza virus kills tens of thousands of people each year worldwide.
Innate immunity is the oldest form of resistance to disease in plants, insects and mammals. In humans, this includes inflammation, white blood cells known as leukocytes, larger leukocytes known as macrophages as well as several other specialized cells and mechanisms that are activated, often within a few minutes, once an infection is detected. Innate immunity provides only an immediate defense against infection, but not a sustained one.
Molecular Pathogenesis of Immune Networks
Cells and molecules of the immune system not only recognize foreign invaders but also regulate each other through a series of complex interactions, which has a direct bearing on how they respond to autoimmune disease. The molecular pathogenesis of immune networks is the study of cellular events and mechanisms that occur in both the development of disease and what goes wrong during autoimmunity.
Structure and Control of Immune Regulatory Networks
Composed of a complex system of cell types that protect the body, immune regulatory networks are vital to control the body’s response to bacteria, viruses and other attacks, including the growth of cancer cells. While highly dependent on T cells—a type of immune cell—other molecular, cellular and structural elements also help modulate our immune response. These regulatory networks also guard against autoimmunity, when the immune system mistakenly attacks host cells.
Cancer does not exist in a biological vacuum but is influenced by its immediate surroundings – what is known as the tumor microenvironment. The tumor microenvironment involves the chemical conversations going on between cancerous cells and the cells that surround and support them. It is the tumor microenvironment that makes it possible for tumors to change from benign to malignant to metastatic.
- Bin1: A Novel Tumor Suppressor Protein >
- Cancer Therapeutics Based on Novel Cyclopamine Analogs >
- Method for Solid-Phase Amplification of DNA Using Multiarrays >
- Monoclonal Antibody to Phosphorylated p53 >
- Novel Mitotic Checkpoint Gene >
- Small Molecule Inhibitors of MicroRNA miR21 >
- Three-Dimensional System to Measure Lymphocyte Migration >
Vaccines are a triumph of modern medicine. Vaccines encourage the body to produce antibodies against disease-causing agents. The Wistar Institute, which has a proven record of success in vaccine development against such diseases as rubella, rabies, and rotavirus, is committed to the development of vaccines for some of the most dangerous and widespread diseases worldwide.
Virology, the specialized study of viruses, seeks to understand how these highly infectious agents invade and exploit the cell’s own mechanisms to induce viral reproduction. Wistar researchers study viruses that cause infectious diseases, such as influenza and malaria, in the effort to create new vaccines. Other viruses that may not cause severe, immediate disease, such as human papillomavirus or Epstein-Barr virus, are of interest to Wistar scientists because these viruses can lead to certain cancers long after they infect people.