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Sir David Lane


The asthma epidemic and regulation
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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I would like to say just a little bit about the so-called asthma epidemic- allergy. It is true that as the infectious diseases have been conquered one by one, very largely by antibiotics, the other- the immunological diseases have come to the fore and top of the list is the- the increasing incidence of asthma. Very difficult area. There are grave problems with ascertainment bias about asthma. When new treatments come in and are found to be effective then many people come forward and say that they have got asthma too, so those who talk in a facile way about the asthma epidemic had better be careful. But I think there is something there and I think that that's an enormous challenge to immunology and I think it is a particular challenge to immunology in the field which I have been most interested in, which is regulation. When the body becomes hypersensitive to pollen and the myriad other agents, molecules, which it does become allergic to, there is some sort of failure of regulation going on. Or perhaps it is fairer to say, in justice to regulation, the immune system is having to- is being confronted with an array of foreign material which it didn't evolve to cope with, it was evolved to cope with perhaps a more limited range and- and it is having to do new things now. And I think there is something in the hygiene hypothesis that we don't encounter in the First World now, in the UK and Europe and America, the range of infections which we used to, and that may be bad for the development of the immune system. So, that is a great area, it's not one which I've participated in directly but I think it's a very important topic for the next decade in immunology.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010