Immunology: Bigger than it seems

A World Immunology Day 2021 special post

Immunology is the study of immune cells that are the body’s defense against everything that is foreign and can damage our body. Immune systems have been around for millions of years, protecting all sorts of organisms including plants and bacteria from harm. The field of Immunology has seen a boom in the last 50 years, as the scientific methods have rapidly advanced. Today, 29th of April is World Immunology Day, when we celebrate this highly complex and constantly developing field.

Immunology and microbiology have gone hand in hand as modern science was developing. It stems from questions of what truly happens after germs enter our body. Development of Vaccines is considered one of the biggest achievements of mankind, wherein the marriage of these two disciplines has saved millions of lives, and continues doing so. Today, we know a lot more about whats and whys of how vaccines work, as step by step, scientists across the world have dedicated their lives in understanding the immune mechanisms. This advancement in our understanding of immune cell interactions has led to development of modern vaccines like mRNA vaccines which are currently being administered all over the world against COVID-19.

But the wonders of Immunology are not restricted to just protecting us from germs like bacteria and viruses. Another major breakthrough in modern science has been Cancer Immunotherapies that revolutionized how we treat cancer. Immunotherapies involve using the body’s immune system to fight against cancer cells by various methods, the most successful being CAR-T therapy that is used in clinics today against blood cancer. Cancer Immunotherapy & Tumor Immunology have become an essential part of research today which hold promise of someday being able to cure all sorts of cancer.

Beyond their defense roles, immune cells like macrophages have been found to be very important in maintenance of homeostasis of the body. Over the last 20 years, we have come to realize that macrophages are present in pretty much every tissue where they have specific functions. Neuroimmunology is also a rapidly evolving field, where scientists have started understanding how signals coming from the nervous system have a direct influence on immune cells. Moreover, for a long time, cardiovascular research has largely focused on atherosclerosis which causes strokes and involves macrophage deposition along with other cells, leading to blockage of vessels. Lastly, gut immunology which as the name suggests focuses on the highly complex microbe-immune interactions of the gut is gaining attention rapidly.

Like everything in the world, the immune system isn’t perfect and various severe autoimmune diseases exist which are also being vastly studied, today more than ever. We know the mechanisms of why pollen makes some of us sneeze or how it is the immune cells that attack the nerve coverings, leading to Multiple Sclerosis. With every facet that we uncover, we are one step closer to curing these ailments. 

Hence, Immunology isn’t as narrow as it was believed to be a few decades ago or as it might be considered by someone who’s not into it. It is much larger than we tend to believe and its effect spills into every aspect of our lives. Just like the universe, it continues to expand as a field and become more complex. As we go into the future, and technology gets more advanced, the possibilities imaginable remain endless. 

Featured Image credit: National Cancer Institute

Article author: Kevin Merchant. Kevin is a MS student at LMU Munich, Germany, who is passionate about Immunology and writing. He aims to simplify latest research so that it becomes accessible to all.

Editor: Sutonuka Bhar. Sutonuka is a PhD candidate at the University of Florida. Her work focuses on host immune responses against viruses and bacterial membrane vesicles.

Check out Antibuddies’ World Immunology Day soecial blog post “Immunology: Bigger than it seems.”

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