Thursday, June 19, 2014

Evolutionary Entanglement

Millions of years of co-evolution have led to a delicate balance between the immune system and our microbial residents. A calibrated system of checks and balances has developed that keeps immune cells from being overzealous, overly aggressive, causing inflammation or attacking cells of our body. At the same time this fine balance ensures that the immune cells are not too lazy and effectively recognize and deal with the invaders. An interesting question now emerges about the role of the immune system ...did it evolve to fight off invaders (as we have always considered) OR to help us live harmoniously alongside beneficial microbes?
How does the immune system distinguish the good from role as distinguishing ‘self’ versus ‘not self’ must now be updated to the expanded view of distinction between the community of the human superorganism: human cells and our mutualist friends versus foes (pathogens). Microbes are no longer simply invaders to be annihilated by our immune system but residents in a symbiotic community. This discernment is the current great mystery and challenge of immunology.

Given the new view of the 100 trillion microbes that are tolerated by the immune system a new paradigm of immune system function is needed. The basic tenets of this new view have been updated:
  1. Immune system development and healthy function requires continual interaction with the mutualist microbes, the beneficial bacteria and parasites.
  2. A central component of balance in the immune system is achieved by the function of a recently discovered peacekeeper faction of the immune system: Regulatory T cells and Regulatory B cells that rein in the immune response.
    • These regulatory peacekeepers are produced primarily when our immune systems regularly engage with our microbiome: bacteria and parasites
    • If the microbiome biodiversity declines, then immune system education is compromised, microbe encounters decline and the peacekeeper levels fall. This situation is responsible for precipitating inflammation, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune imbalances.
  3. Therefore allergies are NOT so much due to the presence of an allergen that triggers a response in the immune system but the absence of microbes that precipitates a global imbalance in our immune responses. 
The BodyEcolgoy course will be offered one last time LIVE and via LIVESTREAMClick here for more info.

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