“How did our adaptive immune system evolve?”
Max D. Cooper, M.D.
Our immune system can recognize all kinds of potential microbial invaders, repel them, remember them, and prevent their reinvasion by producing pathogen-specific antibodies. We seek to understand how the different types of cells in the immune system develop and function together for effective immunity.
The different components of our complex immune system evolved in concert through powerful and enduring selection to improve the odds for successful defense against pathogens. Understanding normal immune system development and function will help us to recognize, prevent, and improve the treatment of disturbances in the immune system, such as leukemias, lymphomas, immunodeficiencies and autoimmune diseases.
In the Lab
We have learned recently that primitive fish, lamprey and hagfish, make antibodies of different kind than the ones we make, but which are equally diverse in the antigen-binding specificities and remarkably stable, even under very harsh conditions. The potential uses for these ancient antibodies as diagnostic and therapeutic agents are currently being investigated. In other studies, a newly recognized family of receptors that help regulate the growth and maturation of our antibody-producing cells are being characterized structurally