A pharaonic project to map the entire human immune system


The covid pandemic has re-emphasized the importance of the immune system, which protects us from disease, determines how we respond to infection, and how well we respond to drugs and vaccines. Above all, he made it clear that the immune system is so fundamental that it is still little known.

This is why there is excitement around the initiative to create the most complete and comprehensive map of the human immune system ever obtained. The Human Immunome Project is a ten-year project that aims to provide a complete vision of the immune response of each individual. Data collection will begin in 2024.

What purpose will it serve? Scientists believe that a better understanding of the human immune system could change the course of future pandemics. Example? The hepatitis B vaccine is one of immunology’s greatest achievements, providing decades of protection against the virus that affects the liver. But it doesn’t work for 10% of people who get it: recent studies have shown that certain properties of the immune system, from the concentration of certain proteins to the abundance of certain genes, determine the response to this vaccine and influence its effectiveness. .

Other factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, and even socioeconomic background can also influence immune characteristics and affect response to other vaccines or medications, diseases, predisposition to allergies, autoimmune diseases, and conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular problems.

An almost impossible photo. The project promises to be monumental. Our immune system is a complex of organs, cells, proteins and biological processes. And scientists from the Human Immunome Project, led by Hans Keirstead, a stem cell scientist and the project’s chief manager, aim to capture entire human immune diversity: They will collect data at approximately 300 facilities on each continent, each capable of supporting access for approximately 10,000 people of all ages, from newborns to centenarians, and in all health conditions.

Volunteers will be required to undergo regular medical tests and provide a detailed medical history. Doctors will measure variables such as the amount of certain immune cells, genetic activity, or the concentration of specific molecules that are key to metabolism.

Act soon. In total, we are talking about approximately two thousand billion pieces of information. Which will be made available to the public in a database accessible to all and processed with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal is to build a predictive model that can indicate how an individual – based on their immunological profile, age and other basic information – will respond to a pathogen or therapy; or that can create an accurate picture of the public health of a given population and its vulnerability to certain pathologies.

If it worked, it would reduce healthcare costs by focusing on prevention.


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