Measuring the Fitness of the Immune System

(English post only)
What is “Immune Fitness”? How do we know if our immune system is healthy? As the immune system is closely related to our health and well being in general, it might be counter intuitive and confusing to look at the health or “fitness” of the immune system as a quantity of its own. We argue however that this is necessary because ill functioning of the immune system is the basis of most chronic diseases.

In this light we might even have to introduce a new term like “Chronic Immune Disorder” for “the chronic inability to activate and regulate the immune response according to the circumstances at hand”. This inabilaty can, like cancer, manifest itself in many different ways in the body but displays the same underlying mechanism. It leads to a number of chronic diseases with just as many different names like Parkinson’s, IBD’s as Crohn, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Immune Deficiencies, Allergies and even cancer. Understanding how a Chronic Immune Disorder comes about and how to help the immune system become fit and healthy, is essential in dealing with many chronic diseases, including cancer.

“Immune Fitness”

In contrast to a Chronic Immune Disorder, “Immune Fitness” could be defined as “the ablility to activate and regulate the immune response according to circumstances and integrating the response with other bodily functions, leading to a dynamical state of well being”. Being able to quantify any qualitative notion of Immune Fitness is essential for the validation of scientific research in this field.

Measuring Immune Fitness

Understanding or even measuring Immune Fitness can only be done in a multiview, multidisciplinairy way, taking into account the close relation of immune fitness to health in general. Health has a broad definition that is no longer restricted to physical well being or simply the absence of disease, but also takes into account mental, emotional and behavioural dimensions [1]. Furthermore, immune profiling so far suggests a wide variability of immune system types that can respond in different ways to the same circumstance.

Therefore, in understanding and quantifying Immune Fitness, we suggest using a model as depicted in figure 1 that also includes non physical health dimensions and embraces the possible existence of a variability of immune system types, each having their own bandwidth of health. The state of healthyness of each immune system type can lie within this bandwidth (then the immune system is fit) our outside of the bandwidth (which can lead to a Chronic Immune Disorder).

As the immune system is a highly responsive, adaptive system, we suggest to always measure response patterns in stead of single moment measurements. In addition one can measure these response patterns repeatedly over longer periods of time, gaining more insight of the patterns at different ages.

Quantification and validation of an Immune Fitness Model

One of Immunowell’s first research actions is to set up and scientifically validate an Immune Fitness Model in order to better facilitate future research of Chronic Immune Disorders and Immune Fitness.

Dit stuk is geschreven naar aanleiding van de eerste bijeenkomst van de Kerngroep Wetenschap op 19 juni 2015. Voor meer info over de kerngroepen klik hier.

© Immunowell Foundation


[1] Huber et al., How should we define health? BMJ 2011;343:d4163

Figure 1

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