Zika virus (ZIKV) has emerged as a significant human health threat in the last 5 years. Zika virus is associated with (and may cause) microencephaly and neurological deficits in infants, with unknown long-term consequences for adults. In late 2015 there was a spike in ZIKV infections in South America. Initially, the surge was blamed on … Continue reading Mosquito spit gives Zika virus an infectious edge
Pathogens, including viruses and bacteria, have one primary goal: reproduction. Transmission is the movement of a pathogen from one host to the next. Infectious pathogens that cause disease have evolved to enhance the likelihood of transmission so that they can infect more hosts. For example, influenza virus and the measles virus are both highly contagious … Continue reading Vector-borne diseases: directions in transmission
Immune cells communicate with one another in many different ways, including through the production of cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that cells expel, or secrete, that can travel to other cells in the body, bind to receptor proteins on the cell surface, and relay a message. One important class of cytokines is interferons (IFNs), which play … Continue reading An introduction to interferons
One of the most well-studied and highly utilized animals in biomedical research is the mouse Mus musculus. Although their well-characterized biology makes them a useful, tractable model species, some scientists argue that, as captive animals reared under atypical conditions, their immune systems may be different from that of wild mice.
Immunoglobulins (Igs), commonly known as antibodies, are Y-shaped proteins that are key players in the adaptive immune system. These proteins are made to bind to specific antigens, such as those found on bacteria and other foreign substances. Immunoglobulins generally consist of two heavy chains and two light chains that are joined by disulfide bonds. Both … Continue reading The diversity of immunoglobulins
Immune cells are among the most perceptive in our bodies---unique in their ability to read their environments and act accordingly. They are experts at integrating various signals within an organism and determining how to act based on these cues. These cues can be broken down into two main camps, one being a “cell-cell interaction” - … Continue reading Cytokines: the language of immunity
The immune system is the collection of cells and cellular products that function to protect our body from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. At its broadest level of organization, the immune system can be divided into two categories: the innate immune system, and the adaptive immune system. Although the members of these two … Continue reading The innate and adaptive immune system
When studying biology, researchers often run into experimental limitations due to the complexity of living beings---especially in regards to human health and disease. Depending on the scientific questions being asked, researchers turn to a model system or model organism to simulate complex biological mechanisms and gain further understanding. A model organism can be as simple … Continue reading The very model of a modern research organism
The human immune system (and those of most mammals) is composed of physical barriers (skin and mucus), innate and adaptive cells, chemical messengers (cytokines), and primary and secondary lymphoid tissue. Primary lymphoid tissue includes the bone marrow and the thymus. Immune cell progenitors arise in the bone marrow, along with red blood cells and platelets … Continue reading Organs of the immune system
Keeping up with advances and discoveries can be challenging, but keeping new discoveries in context with immunology as a whole is nearly impossible. Or, it is for any one person. Thus: Immunobites!