My name is Shiv Pillai.
I'm going to be presenting an overview of the immune system.
I'm a professor at Harvard Medical School,
I'm based at the Reagan Institute,
just part of Massachusetts General Hospital as well.
I will be touching on only some aspects of the immune system today.
Particularly, because in the course of the limited time that we have,
I'd like to just touch on the broad concepts.
So if we go back a little bit in time,
and we go to 1882.
This is when a brilliant temperamental,
somewhat suicidal scientist born in Russia,
his name is Elie Metchnikoff.
He made a discovery that actually set in motion all our studies on immunity,
and the existence of an immune system.
So Metchnikoff was vacationing in Sicily with his family.
In the town of Miseno,
he was by the beach looking through a microscope at a starfish larvae.
He poured some carmine dyes into the larvae,
and noticed that there were cells that appeared to move towards the dye and ingest it.
He witnessed this and got extremely excited,
because he thought he might now have an explanation for
a phenomenon that had been described almost 2,000 years earlier.
So the great Greek physician Cornelius Celsus,
had described the process of inflammation,
which involves redness, swelling, pain and warmth.
What Metchnikoff thought he was viewing,
was the existence of cells that were driving such a phenomenon.
His view was that these cells weren't there just to cause problems for us but that this was
part of a protective mechanism against foreign microbes.
So he in his excitement went to a rosebush in his garden,
plucked off a thorn,
plunged it into the larvae,
and was intrigued when he saw some hours later that many
of these cells that he'd seen going around the carmine dye before,
were now trying to engulf this rose thorn.
So this process was later to be called phagocytosis,
which really means the process of eating something up.
The cells that mediated this phenomenon, were called phagocytes.