Injury and Inflammation
The lectures of the Michaelmas term start with an Introductory lecture that provides an overview of the subject. It is followed by a set of lectures concerned with cell injury, inflammation, and healing. Cell injury is the starting point for most disease processes, and the basic initial response of the body to all types of cell injury is acute inflammation. The changes that occur during this process are dynamic and follow a predictable course in which changes in the micro-circulation play a crucial role in focusing the basic defences at the site of injury. The whole process of acute inflammation is orchestrated by elaborate molecular and cellular mechanisms.
The immune response is the body's major defence against infectious agents. This section of the course, will present some of the fundamental characteristics of vertebrate immunology. The topics covered will include the ability of vertebrates to mount an adaptive immune response, the role of B and T lymphocytes, antibody structure, autoimmunity, and hypersensitivity.
An adaptive immune response has two phases: first the recognition phase in which an antigen is recognized as being foreign, and secondly, an effector phase in which antibodies and effector T lymphocytes eliminate the antigen, often by recruiting non-specific mechanisms such as complement and macrophage activation. The whole process requires considerable co-operation between cells of the immune system, and ingenious and intricate signalling mechanisms are involved.
Viruses are submicroscopic obligate intracellular parasites. At their simplest, they consist of a nucleic acid genome, which may be DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protective shell of repeating protein subunits. Viruses are however a diverse group, as there is considerable variation both in the coding potential of the genome, and in the different proteins, and their symmetrical arrangement, within the outer protein shell. In addition, some viruses acquire an outer membrane as they leave the host cell, and these viruses are therefore chemically more complex.
The virology component of the course will start by considering the diversity of viruses, and also their common features. Viruses are dependent upon host cell machinery for their replication, and the course goes on to cover virus replication, their ability to modify the host cell, and the responses of multicellular hosts to viral infection. The epidemiology of virus infection, and current and future strategies for combating viral diseases will also be addressed.