Chapter

The Continuity Theory

Thomas Pradeu and Elizabeth Vitanza

in The Limits of the Self

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199775286
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199775286.003.0005
The Continuity Theory

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This chapter offers a new theory in order to explain the triggering of an immune response, called the “continuity theory.” According to this theory, the triggering of an immune response is due to a strong modification of the antigenic patterns with which the organism’s immune receptors continuously interact. The continuity theory is built upon the two observations made in the previous chapter in order to reject the self-nonself theory, that is, normal autoreactivity and immune tolerance. One of the main advantages of the continuity theory is that it gathers under a unique explanation phenomena that have until now received different explanations, and even sometimes ad hoc explanations: immune responses to tumor cells, the phagocytosis of dying cells, or the triggering of immune regulatory mechanisms, among others. I show how the continuity theory explains a wide range of phenomena, and how it can be applied to every organism, including unicellulars.

Keywords: continuity; discontinuity; molecular difference; autoreactivity; tolerance; criterion of immunogenicity; antigen-presenting cells; regulatory cells; immune surveillance

Chapter.  14784 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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