Fall SAVY 2016 (Day 4) – Pathogens and Protectors: The Science of the Immune System
This Saturday, we started by sharing analogies of the immune system. I previously gave the example of how the immune system is similar to a castle, with each component represented by a structure or guard of the castle. Students shared incredibly creative analogies, ranging from China to minecraft, that demonstrated understanding of key innate and adaptive immune players. We further conceptualized the immune system by drawing a system diagram and determining how inputs cause the system to interact and produce outputs (the primary one being health).
Students were then challenged to think of instances in which the immune system was either over active or under active. Blood transfusions, allergies, organ transplantation, and chemotherapy all came up as situations in which our immune system is functioning inappropriately. We discussed how blood type matching avoids producing an immune response and how children with severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome were originally isolated from the world to protect them from pathogens (thought now can be treated with bone marrow transplantation).
In small groups, students brainstormed solutions to an over-active immune system in the context of allergies and organ transplantation. We will continue this discussion next week, though we did mention desensitization as a therapy for allergies and induced pluripotent stem cells as a future transplant option. As we ended class, I asked students to think about how vaccines might work, using what we know about the adaptive immune system. We will debate the efficacy of the flu shot among other activities next week!