What is Immunology?
Immunology refers to the study of the body’s immune system. It is a broad branch of biomedicine involved in studying the whole process of immunity, including health and disease processes.
Various diseases and plagues were already reported as early as 400 BC. But it was only in 1798 when records were made regarding specific studies on the process of immunity from certain diseases. An English doctor named Edward Jenner had a report on possible protection from smallpox. Years later, Louis Pasteur made a theory that exposure to a microbe with properties similar to the disease-causing organism could help persons gain immunity from disease. This principle eventually led to the development of vaccines for diseases such as chicken pox, polio, and measles.
By the late 19th century, Paul Ehrlich of Germany theorized that proteins in the blood have the power to attack disease-causing organisms called pathogens. It was also during this time that certain parts of human blood, particularly the white blood cells, have the ability to attack foreign bodies or viruses warding off possible infection. Later on, the discovery of the body’s lymphoid organs and their roles in immune system functions led to more analysis and findings on some disease properties.
One component of immunology deals with medicine and epidemiology. This component is called Classical Immunology and particularly studies on pathogens and its effects and processes on human bodies. Another component is called Clinical Immunology, which studies illnesses that result from abnormalities of the immune system. Diseases on the other body systems that may have been caused partly by a person’s immune reactions are also part of this component. Diseases that are studied under this component include auto-immune disorders such rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and myasthenia gravis. A third component of immunology involves human development concepts that affect the body’s reaction to pathogens. This component is called Developmental Immunology. Evolutionary Immunology is another component and this deals with studies on extinct species. This component provides additional understanding of immune processes of the past and how it relates to present conditions.