Monday, July 12, 2004

Immune systems evolved more than once

Primitive fish have advanced protective mechanism.

When discussing the attributes that make mammals special, a sophisticated immune response generally comes close to the top of the list. But now it seems that we're not so unique after all.

Researchers have found that fish-like creatures called lampreys have evolved their own system, using building blocks that are completely unrelated to the antibodies found in mammals. The discovery opens up a new world for immunologists, who had previously assumed there was only one way of doing things – ours.

"The result blew my mind," says Chris Amemiya, molecular geneticist at the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle, and an author of the study. "Now we know there are at least two ways of making the adaptive immune system."

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