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A Plaidoyer for ‘Systems Immunology’

Authors

  • Christophe Benoist,

    Corresponding author
    1. Section on Immunology and Immunogenetics, Joslin Diabetes Center, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Ronald N. Germain,

    1. Lymphocyte Biology Section, Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
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  • Diane Mathis

    1. Section on Immunology and Immunogenetics, Joslin Diabetes Center, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
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* Christophe Benoist
Department of Medicine
Section on Immunology and Immunogenetics
Joslin Diabetes Center
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Harvard Medical School
One Joslin Place
Boston, MA 02215
USA
Tel.: +1 617 264 2745
Fax: +1 617 264 2744
E-mail: cbdm@joslin.harvard.edu

Abstract

Summary:  A complete understanding of the immune system will ultimately require an integrated perspective on how genetic and epigenetic entities work together to produce the range of physiologic and pathologic behaviors characteristic of immune function. The immune network encompasses all of the connections and regulatory associations between individual cells and the sum of interactions between gene products within a cell. With 30 000+ protein-coding genes in a mammalian genome, further compounded by microRNAs and yet unrecognized layers of genetic controls, connecting the dots of this network is a monumental task. Over the past few years, high-throughput techniques have allowed a genome-scale view on cell states and cell- or system-level responses to perturbations. Here, we observe that after an early burst of enthusiasm, there has developed a distinct resistance to placing a high value on global genomic or proteomic analyses. Such reluctance has affected both the practice and the publication of immunological science, resulting in a substantial impediment to the advances in our understanding that such large-scale studies could potentially provide. We propose that distinct standards are needed for validation, evaluation, and visualization of global analyses, such that in-depth descriptions of cellular responses may complement the gene/factor-centric approaches currently in favor.

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