Tag Archives: immunology

The largest study so far on serum cytokines

We just published the largest study so far of human serum cytokines providing for the first time reference values.

In this study we investigated serum samples from 944 individuals of 218 asthma-affected families by a multiplex, microsphere based system detecting at high sensitivity eleven asthma associated mediators: eotaxin (CCL11), granulocyte macrophage stimulating factor (GM-CSF), interferon gamma (IFNγ), interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12 (p40), IL-13, IL-17 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα). Continue reading The largest study so far on serum cytokines

More heat than light

There is a new review on vitamin D and allergy.
Reading that piece carefully, I fear that expertise in one area does not guarantee Continue reading More heat than light

Asthma – a disease of the gut

When starting in the asthma field in 1989, the textbooks told me that asthma is a disease of the lung. Some years later, asthma turned out to be a disease of the bone marrow cells. More recently, I raised the question if asthma could be even a disease of the gut – our largest immunological organ being frequently exposed to allergen & plenty of immunological active substances. Although on the different track (vitamin A) also other authors now think of an early impaired immune gut response.
Rather unexpected for me was a study in J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol that 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibits in vitro and in vivo intracellular growth of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. yea, yea.

3 Rs

The 3 Rs of regulating animal research are Refinement (to minimize suffering), Reduction and Replacement (to minimize the number of animals used). A Nature news feature now has a critical appraisal of current knockout projects where each of the 25,000 genes will be knocked out in the next future. Although current technology represent an advantage over recent undirected mutagenesis projects

… the number of mice needed to establish a line stretches from 50 to several 100. On top of this, another couple of 100 animals are needed for basic analysis of genetic make-up and phenotype…

Many genes cannot be knocked out – some knockouts may even be lethal.
We are also not so much interested in permanent destruction of genes in all tissues but in conditional and temporal shutdown of gene function.
And many researchers are not so much interested in the current 129 background than in BL6 (at least in immunology and allergology).
Finally (in human genetics) we are not dealing with knockouts but with multiple genomic variants of a gene. The question therefore is

Is the spirit of the knockout projects in line with [3R] principle[s]?

although I acknowledge that these industrial projects may generate many “nice to know” facts.

Some are hybrids, some are not

Microchimerism is an interesting phenomenon that describes the hosting of foreign cells in an individuum – the prefix micro relates to the rather low counts of foreign cells (see the self discussion).
It is believed (but unproven) that most cases of microchimerism relate to the persistence of fetal cells in the maternal organism. The background of microchimerism is extremely complicated as highlighted in a recent review about the immunology of placentation in mammals. This paper has some nice cartoons about the types of placentation (epitheliochorial, endothelichorial and haemochorial) where the invasive potential of fetal trophoblast cells is the culprit of reciprocal (?) cell traffic between mother and fetus. The highest risk is found in women with induced abortion; cell count is ranging from 0 to 21 male cells per 100,000 female cells in peripheral blood; transfer may occur from mother <-> child, twin <-> twin, or sib <-> mother <-> sib.
Microchimerism has been examined in transplantation medicine (where the recipient replaces the outer donor organ epithelium), in blood transfusion and HCT, as well as in some autoimmune diseases (systemic sclerosis, SLE, thyroiditis, PBC). A clinical review reports that fetal cells have been found to persist for many years, probably for a lifetime.
I have doubts if that is true as I am not aware of any quantitative long-term study. Nearly all studies identified only male cells in women although now genomic studies of single cells are possible allowing a much better identification of foreign cells. If you are looking for a PhD thesis, microchimerism could be your field!
I already wondered if microchimerism could lead to genotyping errors, a question that can now easily be tested on the garbage of genotyping labs: We usually have genotyping errors in the 1-10 o/oo range; sometimes we see also triallelic SNPs. As far as I can renember, microchimerism has never been analyzed in the allergy field, although allergy can transplanted as well as asthma. Yea, yea.

On the “Self”

If I would ever find the time, I would write a book on the “self”. Inspired by the Eccles/Popper book that I bought as a student, I always wondered how different the self is being defined in sociology, psychology/psychiatry, philosophy and theology.
As my current focus is more on genetics and immunology, I found a paper by Francisco Borrego on the “missing self” quite interesting as it highlights the genetic self is determined mainly by MHC class I molecules, where only NK cells transfected with H-2Dd were able to confer resistance for being self-attacked. It would be nice if other disciplines could also provide such simple answers, yea, yea.


I have another suggestion: Zfp608 protects mouse mothers against immune-mediated attack by fetal cells.

Is there also a “digiself“?

Our identity has, for many years, existed quite independent of our physical incarnation in government, financial and other institutional databases. We are not real to the bank or other authorities unless we can produce something that links our physical self to our “real identity” in their database. We have many versions of this digital identity – or digiSelf, as I like to call it – spread among many databases, each with its unique characteristics, and inferred behaviours. Each one is more real to the institution – and ironically, to the people in that institution – than our physical self, what we consider to be our real self.