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Day of Immunology 2008

MEDIA RELEASE

29 April 2008


Day of Immunology 2008

Today, 29 April 2008, marks International Day of Immunology.

Immunology is a vibrant and ever-changing branch of biomedical science that deals with the study of the immune system, a network of specialised cells that protect us against diseases caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Since the immune system is so extensive, encompassing everything from blood cells to the lymph system to the skin, immunology is a very broad field of study.

"Every day we are exposed to a wide array of viruses, bacteria and other infectious organisms. Our immune system is like our own personal defence force, that is ready and waiting to fight infection," says Dr Joanna Kirman, Head of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research Infectious Diseases Group and council member of the Australasian Society for Immunology. "International Day of Immunology is a good opportunity for us to stop and reflect on the research being done to improve the lives of people whose immune systems do not work optimally. Those with an under-active immune system are highly susceptible to disease, while those with an over-active immune system face diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.”

The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research is New Zealand’s premier vaccine and immunology research centre, based at Victoria University’s Kelburn campus, Wellington. Its scientists study asthma, arthritis and multiple sclerosis, which result from an inappropriately operating immune system, and are using this information to develop effective therapies and vaccines for the treatment of these and other diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.

Director of the Malaghan Institute Professor Graham Le Gros emphasises the critical need for cutting-edge immunology research in this country. "It is becoming increasingly apparent that current conventional treatments for diseases such as cancer and asthma are not delivering on their promises. As we increase the depth of our understanding of the immune system and how we can harness its potency for the treatment of disease, the potential benefits for New Zealanders are limitless."

An example of immunology in action is vaccination, which stimulates the body to produce antibodies to fight off the various bugs that make us all sick. In the lead up to Day of Immunology 2008, scientists at the Malaghan Institute have been getting their flu shots and would like to encourage everyone to do the same. With winter just around the corner, now is the time to take preventative measures to boost your immune system and minimise the chance of contracting this crippling virus.

For further information on immunology research at the Malaghan Institute please visit www.malaghan.org.nz.

ends


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