From military defense systems to a symphony orchestra, metaphors for the immune system abound.
In the latest episode of the Get Science podcast, immunologist Tom Wynn shares his favorite metaphor for explaining the immune system to his mom. It’s like a “kill-and-repair mechanism,” he says. As immune cells do their job of fighting infections, cells and tissues sustain collateral damage. Most often, a healthy immune system can bounce back and repair this “bystander injury.” But when one of these mechanisms becomes dysregulated or out of balance, we can get autoimmune diseases and other types illnesses.
As leader of early discovery in Pfizer’s Inflammation and Immunology unit, Wynn heads up efforts to understand the basic science of what makes the immune system go awry, and the drivers of inflammation in a variety of autoimmune conditions. Before joining Pfizer in 2017, he spent 26 years at the National Institutes of Health where he was a leading expert on fibrosis, or scarring from chronic inflammation.
Continuing on our theme of “rule-breaking” biology, Wynn shares his own insights on the the exciting and sometimes frustrating aspects of pursuing hypotheses that “don’t pan out” as you expect them to. And, given his knack for making the immune system understandable for non-scientists, we think you’ll especially enjoy tuning in to this episode.