Study in a Sentence: A Stanford University immunologist is pushing the field of immunology to shift its research focus to become more human-relevant. New technologies, like organoid systems and mass cytometry, a high-dimensional analysis platform used to determine the properties of cells, can use human tissues and blood to study multiple aspects of immune response concurrently, a field called systems immunology. These new technologies can help researchers gain a better understanding of the complexities of the immune system and study human conditions like autoimmune diseases.
Healthy for Humans: Vaccines. Allergies. Auto-immune diseases. Cancer. Our immune system plays a major role in our health and disease. Emerging, high-throughput technologies are allowing researchers to study human systems immunology in a noninvasive manner, permitting human immune diseases to be studied like never before. A systems level approach can measure immune response to vaccines and various medications; it may also be able to predict the immune response of different individuals based on gene expression, environmental influences, and other factors that cannot be studied in mice, the species most often used for immunological research.
Redefining Research: Millions of mice have been used in immunology research since the field first emerged. However, with newly-available human-relevant methods, scientists are just beginning to discover the intricacies of human immunology. Mice are poorly predictive of human immunology for numerous reasons, including the fact that mice used in research are typically isolated from social interactions and outside pathogens. Mouse studies are thus not able to replicate the environmental factors that humans encounter on a day-to-day basis. These new tools allow researchers to collect and analyze large amounts of data from human cells, which will help bridge the gap between human immunology research and the use of immunology in medicine, ensuring the development of more promising solutions for human diseases.