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Peter Bretscher Traces the History of Past and Contemporary Ideas of Immunology and Discusses Their Past and Potential Contributions to Medicine


The numerous discoveries of science have given birth to technology that, in turn, has endowed the present generation with advancements that make daily living more secure and comfortable. Peter Bretscher, a famous immunologist, has written a book, entitled “The Foundations of Immunology and their Pertinence to Medicine,” in which he explains how the foundational ideas of immunology arose and their pertinence to past successes in medicine. He also speculates on their pertinence to future medical strategies of prevention and treatment.

Over the last two and a half centuries, foundational concepts of immunology have evolved rapidly. In the late 1700s, Jenner’s finding of a safe means of vaccination against smallpox led to the establishment, by Koch and Pasteur, of two new sciences in the 1800s: immunology and the study of infectious diseases. These discoveries provided a basis for efficacious vaccination against various diseases. The Clonal Selection Theory, developed in the 1950s, provides a basic conceptual framework for how the immune system functions. This theory has stood the test of time. This success led to an explosion of immunologists and their studies, and an enormous increase in new information. The enormity of this new information led to the view that the immune system is remarkably complex. In this book, Peter outlines why he favours certain foundational concepts over others proposed in the last 50 years, and how this can lead to an understanding of the immune system as an integrated organ.  He attempts in this way to transcend the information overload, and contemporary overspecialization, by going back to the roots of foundational concepts. He justifies some tested and some speculative strategies to prevent and treat clinical conditions in five areas of medicine: Infectious Diseases, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Allergies, and Transplantation.

This book is written in a jargon-free style and so accessible to interested clinicians and non-specialists.

With its simple, straightforward narrative, even the most complex concepts are discussed concisely, making the book appealing and understandable to the general reader.

“The Foundations of Immunology and their Pertinence to Medicine” is available at

Writer: Peter Bretscher
Publisher: FriesenPress
Publication Date: December 14, 2016
ISBN-10: 1460296567
ISBN-13: 978-1460296561
Kindle: $6.99
Paperback: $14.99
Hardcover: $24.99

About the Author

Peter Bretscher is a well-known Immunologist. He earned his undergraduate degree in Physics at Cambridge University, England. He then undertook graduate studies in protein X-ray crystallography at the famous Cambridge Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Circumstances led him to become fascinated by the immune system. He was fortunate enough to be able to discuss his early ideas with Francis Crick. This was the start of a 50-year engagement, during which Peter and his students produced substantial theoretical and experimental contributions to the field. It is recognized that the immune system fights all foreign invaders, ie nonself, but avoids fighting parts of the body to which it belongs, ie self. This attribute is referred to as Self-Nonself discrimination. In 1970, he and Melvin Cohn published a theory, known as the “Two Signal Model of Lymphocyte Activation”—providing an explanation for how self-nonself discrimination is realized.

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 Numerous Discoveries
 Foundational Ideas
 Strategies Of Prevention
 Enormous Increase
 Information Overload

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