Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer morning thoughts digging their way out

I find myself digging out from under a pile of the previous Spring term which ended last week.  Remnants of everything important - from tiny hand prints artfully crafted on special Mother's Day paper awaiting a more permanent framed display, to the last edition of Allergic Living, to stacks (and I mean STACKS!) of fascinating allergy/immunology papers awaiting meticulous consideration.

Crouching down on one knee with a small grin, I pump my fist and quietly exclaim, "Yes!  I made it.  I made it to summer."  It was a busy term, but worth it in every sense.  I have an appreciation of the microbial world that I did not have before, and suddenly pieces of complicated immunology literature that reference "bacterial things" like LPS and teichoic acid and how it relates to our immune system make perfect sense (at least more than it did). 

Our immune system is fine-tuned to recognize components of bacterial cell membranes/cell walls that we don't have in our cells (e.g. teichoic acid and lipopolysaccharide - LPS).  Source:

 Coming down from that busy term as I sip my coconut milk laden coffee (cow milk does bad things to me... sigh) and peruse the latest immunology literature, I found a gem that brings me full circle to where this microbiology adventure all began.  Nature Immunology - one of the top peer-reviewed science journals for immunology - is highlighting the complex interactions between us and them, our microbial inhabitants, in a series of review articles this month:

"As this exciting area of research blossoms, it becomes more and more apparent that studies of the immune system during homeostasis or disease cannot ignore the microbial world within."

 As I try to dig out, I'll just add a few more to the stack and dig in, coffee in hand.  Begging the question, is there any hope in finding my desk?! 

Finding my desk is hopeless.  At least there's room for coffee!

My mind whirls with the complexity as the science evolves to appreciate and study the complexity in ways that scientists just 20 years ago could only dream.  Technology drives scientific innovation and we are able to study multifaceted, complex interactions in ways never before possible.  Questions of us and them and how we co-evolve for the mutual benefit (or harm) of each other are within grasp.  I would argue it's way more complex than anyone dared to dream, and yet there it is - sweet, beautiful complex life, surviving well and reproducing over the eons in spite of our lack of understanding of it.  It's interesting that modern life and multiple factors in our "environment" likely underlie the allergy epidemic, yet it is this modern life that will allow us to understand our problems and fix them.  Hmm... interesting indeed.

At any rate, enjoy a little of the complex.  Summer is a time to think more deeply and that is just what this thoughtful introvert needs to recoup after a busy term.

Nature Immunology.  July 2013, Volume 14 No 7 pp 645-763


  1. Humble prediction: Jessica will be a significant voice in this area.