Fall SAVY 2016 (Day 3) – Pathogens and Protectors: The Science of the Immune System
This week, we delved into the adaptive immune system – how one’s body can learn to recognize specific pathogens efficiently if encountered again. We also evaluated the apples exposed to lemon mold and found that while the apple with an intact innate immune system (skin) remained healthy, the apples with holes in their skin rotted, and those that were then covered with antibacterial handwash also rotted (ask students for some explanations we discussed for an explanation of this surprising result).
The class then weighed in on the pros and cons of antibacterial and antibiotic use. This included a discussion of superbugs and how the FDA has banned certain antibacterial agents in soap because of the risk of increasing antibiotic resistance with no improvement in disinfecting ability. One student had watched a related video that we shared during class, which summarized a lot of the debate (you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByEjq7L5Ue4).
Students created a model using themselves as key players in the immune system (namely, helper T cells, killer cells – encompassing macrophages and cytotoxic T cells, and pathogens) and we simulated an intact immune system and one that had been compromised in different ways. I also took students through a common analogy for the immune system – the system defending a castle – and they were quick to draw other analogies. At the end of class, I asked them to consider something else that could model the immune system and we will share those next week.
Next week, we are also going to investigate autoimmune diseases and deficient immune systems and develop solutions for their treatment, as well as discuss current state-of-the-art treatments in use.