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Tom Kepler : Microevolution in the Immune System: A Computational Systems Approach

Vaccines protect their recipients by inducing long-term structural changes in populations of immune cells. Part of that restructuring is exactly analogous to Darwinian Selection. New antibody molecules are created by somatic mutation of existing antibody genes. Subsequently, the immune cell populations that possess these mutated receptors overtake the "wild-type" immune cells due  to the selective advantage they have acquired. Thus the immune system is vastly better prepared to recognize and eliminate the eliciting pathogen the next time around.

New sequencing and biosynthesis technologies, together with mathematical and computational tools, now allow us to investigate this fascinating and important phenomenon more deeply than ever before. I will illustrate this development with examples from the immune response to HIV infection.

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