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Talk Abstract
Homunculi and Golems: Determinism and Unpredictability
in the Immune System

Eli Sercarz
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

Potential reactivity to self antigenic determinants is not an anomaly but a natural consequence of the rules of positive and negative selection, and the nature of the degeneracy of specificity of the T cell receptor. Many T cells exist with self-reactive capability and discussion will focus on the initiation, propagation and regulation of aggressive self-directed responses. The hypothesis will be presented that in addition to the tight-wired regulatory systems (i.e., "homuncular" after Irun Cohen) there are many features of the immune system that are essentially unpredictable. The widespread presence of degeneracy and redundancy in the system further adds to the unpredictability of response in a particular individual.

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1998-1999 Mathematics in Biology

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