Rob de Boer (University of Utrecht; Santa Fe Institute External Professor)
The immune system is a fascinating complex system taking decisions on how to respond to a wide variety of stimuli, varying from lethal pathogens in the blood to harmless proteins in the food. These decisions are remembered for life in the form of immunological memory. Decisions are stored in circulating lymphocytes that together form a vast repertoire of random detectors that are made my semi-random shuffling of gene segments. Due to large genetic differences we all mount unique immune responses to the same pathogen, and store these in unique lymphocytes. I will discuss how evolutionary conserved mechanisms of detecting threats are stored into specific memory lymphocytes such that individual hosts learn to respond appropriately to the dangerous pathogens and harmless proteins in their environment.