Article ID: CBB176082678

Immunological Memory, from Thucydides to Burnet and Beyond (2022)


Immunological memory has been observed since ancient times because those who recovered from an epidemic (infectious) disease usually did not contract it a second time. For centuries, fanciful hypotheses were put forward on the origin of this acquired refractoriness to specific diseases, which mainly imagined the depletion in the host of some factor that normally allowed the production of the pathologies. In 1890, the antibody was discovered, and the problem became twofold. On the one hand, as the result of an infectious or antigenic stimulus in the body, how could specific antibodies appear, and how were antibodies made? On the other hand, what does immunological memory depend on, that is, how is the specific trace of the encounter with the infectious challenge or an antigen preserved? Immunochemical research demonstrated the intrinsic or spontaneous diversity of antibodies. The specificity of recognition is not absolute or exclusive to one antibody but rather the result of a multiplicity of partial recognitions by antibodies with different affinities for the antigenic determinant(s). Furthermore, a comparison of successive immune responses showed that a second stimulus with the same antigen elicits faster and more chemically effective antibodies. At that point, diversity could be imagined and then established to pre-exist, i.e. it became the condition that allowed the immune response to be thought of as adaptive. In the meantime, each specific antibody was synthesised by differentiated cells undergoing clonal expansion. Therefore, the functional logic of immunological memory was based on the formation of B or T cells, which spontaneously express on their surfaces receptors with predefined specificity and undergo clonal expansion following the encounter with the antigen. Selected antibodies made by plasma cells can remain in circulation for some time. Some B and T cells evolve into memory cells ready to be activated in case of a further stimulus from the same antigen. Explaining the functional logic of immunological memory has inspired one of the most successful neurobiological models of how the brain works as a selective system, Gerald Edelman's theory of neural Darwinism.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Nussenzweig, Ruth Sonntag; (2011)
Breakthroughs towards a Malaria Vaccine (/isis/citation/CBB001420528/)

Chapter Harden, Victoria A.; (2008)
Emerging Paradigm, Emerging Disease: Molecular Immunology and AIDS in the 1980s (/isis/citation/CBB000760343/)

Article Alessandra Maria Balestra; (2018)
The industry of butter made with pasteurised cream as a defence against Tuberculosis transmission (/isis/citation/CBB096991992/)

Article Ortega, Francisco; Zorzanelli, Rafaela; (2010)
A cerebralização da fadiga: uma análise da hipótese cerebral no caso da síndrome da fadiga crônica (/isis/citation/CBB001420452/)

Article Tullo, Ellen; (2010)
Plague of Icy Breath. Cholera and the Gateshead Community 1831--1832 (/isis/citation/CBB001220542/)

Article Read, Ian; (2012)
A Triumphant Decline? Tetanus among Slaves and Freeborn in Brazil (/isis/citation/CBB001420623/)

Book William E. Paul; (2015)
Immunity (/isis/citation/CBB948987614/)

Article Sharma, Padmanee; Allison, James P.; (2012)
Lloyd J. Old (1933--2011) (/isis/citation/CBB001320473/)

Article Barry, Stéphane; (2000)
Bordeaux face à la peste aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles (/isis/citation/CBB000111448/)

Book Hinz-Wessels, Annette; (2008)
Das Robert-Koch-Institut im Nationalsozialismus (/isis/citation/CBB001420927/)

Article Markus, Miles B.; (2011)
Malaria: Origin of the Term “Hypnozoite” (/isis/citation/CBB001220961/)

Article Lowis, George W.; Minagar, Alireza; (2002)
Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen and the Discovery of the Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever (/isis/citation/CBB000300530/)

Book Tucker, Jonathan B.; (2001)
Scourage: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (/isis/citation/CBB000101673/)

Book Bollet, Alfred Jay; (2004)
Plagues & Poxes: The Impact of Human History on Epidemic Disease. (/isis/citation/CBB000930422/)

Authors & Contributors
Tucker, Jonathan B.
Barry, Stéphane
Kolata, Gina Bari
Lowis, George W.
Minagar, Alireza
Harden, Victoria A.
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Histoire des Sciences Médicales
Journal of Medical Biography
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Atlantic Monthly Press
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Kulturverlag Kadmos
Boydell Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Disease and diseases
Infectious diseases
Public health
Gordon, Alexander
Lister, Joseph, Baron
Old, Lloyd J.
Koch, Robert
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
17th century
Great Britain
Valencia (Spain)
United States

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment