ver the past 50 years, a few burning questions have been at the forefront of biological science. In textbook sketches, the lymphatic system stopped at the head. All along it felt wrong and there was a feeling that blushes were inevitable. We said things such as, ‘Don’t sneeze too hard – you’re losing brain cells!’ – almost taking every last sip from the cup of our predestined human potential. We were taught that nerves could never regenerate and that you should never bump your head. We had just mastered machines and begun to peer over the edge. We became fascinated with numbers. First it was, ‘How many genes does each one of us possess?’ After discovering that it was half that of the rice plant, we panicked a little, but had to find something to do with all those counting machines. So we counted something else and turned our attention to the microbes in our gut. To our horror, we realised that they made identical neurotransmitters to our own and used the same receptors to listen in on the cross-talk as we do. Genetics, epigenetics and artificial intelligence – the pebble was now skimming across the water. Yet did we ever ask, ‘How do immune cells get into and out of the brain?’
Molecular genetics approaches now offer one of the most exciting means of delivering a "subunit" vaccine which would be cost effective. The problem with subunit vaccines has been the inability to maintain sufficiently high levels of antigen in the gut to stimulate antibody production in a cost-effective manner. Recently, candidate antigen genes have been introduced into "harmless" enteric bacteria. These bacteria proliferate for some time and exhibit considerable greater staying power in the gut than simple gelatin capsules filled with antigen. This method of immunization is currently under investigation. But think about it, no microbe which can colonize a human should be considered totally"harmless." Also, some of the plasmid vectors used are marked with genes encoding antibiotic resistance 15 .
7. Decide on the most appropriate simulation approach. This decision is made based on the characteristics of the problems, the research questions to be addressed, the scope, the level of aggregation and the experimental data avail- able. Some of the most common approaches used in immunology are agent-based modelling and simulation, discrete-event modelling and simulation, cellular au- tomata and system dynamics. Cellular automata is used for problems involving autonomous individual interactions within a neighbourhood placed in a lattice and emergent behaviour. Agent-based simulation is suitable for problems involv- ing autonomous individual behaviour, elements spacial localization, memory and emergence. Discrete-event simulation tackles problems that are process-oriented, which have passive individual entities and chronological sequence of events. Fur- thermore, each event occurs at an instant in time and marks a change of state in the system. It can be used for any experiment where there is no need for contin- uous time. SD deﬁnes a system at a high level of aggregation and, therefore, it should be used when the research question involves patterns of behaviours and feed-back interactions between the aggregates. This approach is very useful to simulate dynamics of populations and interactions between diﬀerent populations overtime. For example, interactions between tumours and populations of eﬀector cells, populations of viruses and T cells, etc.
Since immune responses play a major role in the development or connective tissue diseases, it is not surprising that a number of laboratory studies reflect these responses. Prior to the 1940s when rheumatoid and LE factors became widely known, one relied mainly on erythrocyte sedimentation rate and serum electrophoresis to identify protein abnormality. Ele vated sedimentation rate depends on rouleaux forma tion, and rouleaux formation is dependent upon large asymmetric molecules of fibrinogen and gamma globulin in plasma. The demonstration of gamma globulin has become the cornerstone of the immuno logist's edifice. It is amazing to see how the sub specialty or immunology has mushroomed to involve the many facets of disease processes such as con nective tissue diseases, skin diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, renal diseases, and cancer. More recently, immune deficiency diseases have included the pe diatrician in the ever-enlarging field of immunology as has the modern-day discovery of human leukocyte antigen (H L-A) testing and tissue typing included the geneticist.
of this field to the understanding and control of can cer. The trademark of immunology is prevention of disease by immunization. With the discovery of anti biotics and their use in tissue cultures. a fresh attack upon many viral infections became possible. In the past two decades. the cultivation of viruses in vitro has resulted in the elimination of epidemics of po liomyelitis: infection with measles virus is less com mon. Where the human is the sole host and reservoir of an infection. immunization may lead to the eradi cation of a disease. This appears to be the attainable goal in smallpox where we are at the threshold of its eradication by intensive immunization and epidemio logic field work.
The Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology has created four named awards to honour past leaders in our department, reward exceptional and innovative research, teaching and service, and to strengthen our pride and ownership in our department. The namesakes of these awards all had a passion for discovery, a commitment to fostering curiosity in our students and a drive for excellence. These awards have been designed to reward recent success and innovation by faculty and students.