Immunological memory is one of the core topics of contemporary immunology. Yet there are many discussions about what this concept precisely means, which components of the immune system display it, and in which phyla it exists. Recent years have seen the multiplication of claims that immunological memory can be found in “innate” immune cells and in many phyla beyond vertebrates (including invertebrates, plants, but also bacteria and archaea), as well as the multiplication of concepts to account for these phenomena, such as “innate immune memory” or “trained immunity”. The aim of this critical review is to analyze these recent claims and concepts, and to distinguish ideas that have often been misleadingly associated, such as memory, adaptive immunity, and specificity. We argue that immunological memory is a gradual and multidimensional phenomenon, irreducible to any simple dichotomy, and we show why adopting this new view matters from an experimental and therapeutic point of view.
Robustness, understood as the maintenance of specific functionalities of a given system against internal and external perturbations, is pervasive in today’s biology. Yet precise applications of this notion to the immune system have been scarce. Here we show that the concept of robustness sheds light on tissue repair, and particularly on the crucial role the immune system plays in this process. We describe the specific mechanisms, including plasticity and redundancy, by which robustness is achieved in the tissue reconstruction system (TRS). In turn, tissue repair offers a very important test case for assessing the usefulness of the concept of robustness, and identifying different varieties of robustness.
New paper in Trends in Immunology (2018), by Gérard Eberl (Institut Pasteur, Paris) & Thomas Pradeu (ImmunoConcept, Bordeaux)
Theories are indispensable to organize immunological data into coherent, explanatory, and predictive frameworks. We propose to combine different models to develop a unifying theory of immunity which situates immunology in the wider context of physiology. We believe that the immune system will be increasingly understood as a central component of a network of partner physiological systems that interconnect to maintain homeostasis.
New paper by Lynn Chiu, Thomas Bazin (co-first authors), Marie-Elise Truchetet, Thierry Schaeverbeke, Laurence Delhaes & Thomas Pradeu
Frontiers in Immunology (Dec 2017). Full text in Open Access.
Resident microbiota do not just shape host immunity, they can also contribute to host protection against pathogens and infectious diseases. Previous reviews of the protective roles of the microbiota have focused exclusively on colonization resistance localized within a microenvironment. This review shows that the protection against pathogens also involves the mitigation of pathogenic impact without eliminating the pathogens (i.e., “disease tolerance”) and the containment of microorganisms to prevent pathogenic spread. Protective microorganisms can have an impact beyond their niche, interfering with the entry, establishment, growth, and spread of pathogenic microorganisms. More fundamentally, we propose a series of conceptual clarifications in support of the idea of a “co-immunity,” where an organism is protected by both its own immune system and components of its microbiota.
Several advocates of the lively field of “metaphysics of science” have recently argued that a naturalistic metaphysics should be based solely on current science, and that it should replace more traditional, intuition-based, forms of metaphysics. The aim of the present paper is to assess that claim by examining the relations between metaphysics of science and general metaphysics. We show that the current metaphysical battlefield is richer and more complex than a simple dichotomy between “metaphysics of science” and “traditional metaphysics”, and that it should instead be understood as a three dimensional “box”, with one axis distinguishing “descriptive metaphysics” from “revisionary metaphysics”, a second axis distinguishing a priori from a posteriori metaphysics, and a third axis distinguishing “commonsense metaphysics”, “traditional metaphysics” and “metaphysics of science”. We use this three-dimensional figure to shed light on the project of current metaphysics of science, and to demonstrate that, in many instances, the target of that project is not defined with enough precision and clarity.
Dysbiosis is a key term in human microbiome research, especially when microbiome patterns are associated with disease states. Although some questions have been raised about how this term is applied, its use continues undiminished in the literature. We investigate the ways in which microbiome researchers discuss dysbiosis and then assess the impact of different concepts of dysbiosis on microbiome research. After an overview of the term’s historical roots, we conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses of a large selection of contemporary dysbiosis statements. We categorize both short definitions and longer conceptual statements about dysbiosis. Further analysis allows us to identify the problematic implications of how dysbiosis is used, particularly with regard to causal hypotheses and normal-abnormal distinctions. We suggest that researchers should reflect carefully on the ways in which they discuss dysbiosis, in order for the field to continue to develop greater predictive scope and explanatory depth.
Despite numerous and increasing attempts to define what life is,there is no consensus on necessary and sufficient conditions for life. Accordingly, some schol- ars have questioned the value of definitions of life and encouraged scientists and philosophers alike to discard the project. As an alternative to this pessimistic conclu- sion, we argue that critically rethinking the nature and uses of definitions can provide new insights into the epistemic roles of definitions of life for different research prac- tices. This paper examines the possible contributions of definitions of life in scientific domains where such definitions are used most (e.g., Synthetic Biology, Origins of Life, Alife, and Astrobiology). Rather than as classificatory tools for demarcation of nat- ural kinds, we highlight the pragmatic utility of what we call operational definitions that serve as theoretical and epistemic tools in scientific practice. In particular, we examine contexts where definitions integrate criteria for life into theoretical models that involve or enable observable operations. We show how these definitions of life play important roles in influencing research agendas and evaluating results, and we argue that to discard the project of defining life is neither sufficiently motivated, nor possible without dismissing important theoretical and practical research.