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Einstein (São Paulo)

Print version ISSN 1679-4508

Abstract

FINGER, Eduardo. Thermodynamics as the driving principle behind the immune system. Einstein (São Paulo) [online]. 2012, vol.10, n.3, pp. 386-388. ISSN 1679-4508.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1679-45082012000300024.

Over the last 120 years, few things contributed more to our understanding of immune system than the study of its behavior in the host/parasite relationship. Despite the advances though, a few questions remain, such as what drives the immune system? What are its guiding principles? If we ask these questions randomly, most will immediately answer "defend the body from external threats," but what exactly do we defend ourselves from? How do these threats harm us? What criteria define what constitutes a threat? On the other hand, if the immune system evolved to defend us against external threats, how does its action against "internal" processes, such as neoplasms, qualify? Why do we die from cancer? Or from infection? Or even, why do we die at all? These apparently obvious questions are nor simple neither trivial, and the difficulty answering them reveals the complex reality that the immune system handles. The objective of this article is to articulate for the reader something that he instinctively already knows: that the decisions of the immune system are thermodynamically driven. Additionally, we will discuss how this apparent change in paradigm alters concepts such as health, disease, and therapeutics.

Keywords : Immunology; Physiopathology; Thermodynamics; Ecology; Therapeutics.

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