25 September 2020 Vol 369, Issue 6511
The science and medicine of human immunology
By Bali Pulendran, Mark M. Davis
Science25 Sep 2020
Immunology through a human lens
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has underscored the critical need to better understand the human immune system and how to unleash its power to develop vaccines and therapeutics. Much of our knowledge of the immune system has accrued from studies in mice, yet vaccines and drugs that work effectively in mice do not always translate into humans. Pulendran and Davis review recent technological advances that have facilitated the study of the immune system in humans. They discuss new insights and how these can affect the development of drugs and vaccines in the modern era.
Although the development of effective vaccines has saved countless lives from infectious diseases, the basic workings of the human immune system are complex and have required the development of animal models, such as inbred mice, to define mechanisms of immunity. More recently, new strategies and technologies have been developed to directly explore the human immune system with unprecedented precision. We discuss how these approaches are advancing our mechanistic understanding of human immunology and are facilitating the development of vaccines and therapeutics for infection, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.