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Diversity, tolerance, and maturation of the adaptive immune response

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The adaptive immune system protects the body from the ever-changing landscape of foreign microorganisms. The two arms of the adaptive immune system, T cells and B cells, mount specific responses to pathogens by utilizing the diversity of their receptors, generated through hypermutation. B cells generate antibodies that strongly bind and inactivate antigens (toxic targets). Potent antibodies are generated through the process of “Affinity Maturation” which is akin to evolution at a rapid pace. T cells recognize and clear infected hosts when their highly variable receptors bind sufficiently strongly to complexes formed with antigen-derived peptides displayed on the cell surface. To avoid auto-immune responses, a process of “Thymic Selection” ensures that only self-tolerant receptors (binding weakly to self peptides) are engaged. Methods from Statistical Physics can be used to model and elucidate these processes, as will be demonstrated through several examples.

This talk is part of the Theory of Condensed Matter series.

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