Re-educate the Immune System: Gerald T. Nepom at TEDxRainier

Re-educate the Immune System: Gerald T. Nepom at TEDxRainier

Translator: H Maria Castro
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard I’m here to talk with you today
about a remarkable part of our bodies, the immune system. It’s a story that has some drama to it, it has some mystery,
it even has a little bit of science. The immune system protects us, right? Protects us from viruses, bacteria,
other forms of infection. But the story I’m going to tell you is about when the immune system
makes mistakes. When it runs amok
and when it actually causes disease. So let’s think a little bit
about the immune system as a process of shape recognition. Picture immune cells
running around the body, through the blood,
through the tissues, rubbing up against other cells
and other tissues and reading the signals
of those other tissues by contact. It’s a little bit like reading
a Braille message with your fingers. Cells of the immune system
have a couple hundred thousand of these molecular fingers, reaching out, contacting the cells
and tissues of the body, running across the bumps, the valleys,
and reading the messages. What you’re looking at here
are some of these messages. Just a couple of examples. Now, if you look carefully
at these images, you’ll notice that
there’s a subtle difference, the bottom image has this yellow blob,
right in the middle, that’s different than the top image. These signals can be quite complex. What do these signals say? Some of them say “Stop”
to the rest of the immune system. Some of them say “Come here.” Some of them say “Leave me alone.” Some of them cry for help,
“Bring the reinforcements.” Signals that bring reinforcements are
good if you’re fighting off an infection. Signals that say “Come here and attack
and bring reinforcements” are not good if they’re telling the immune system to attack normal tissues and normal cells. That’s what you’re looking at here
in the top image. This is one of those signals
that the immune system sees in patients who have a disease
called type 1 diabetes. Auto-immune diabetes. We’ll talk a little bit more
about that in a minute. But the bottom image,
with that subtle change in the middle, that little yellow blob,
is enough to change the signal to a “Go away and leave me alone” signal to the same immune cells. Let me tell you
a little bit about the scale. I already told you that some immune cells have a couple hundred thousand
of these little fingers reaching out
and reading these messages as they run through the body. There are also hundreds of millions
of these immune cells, running around in our bodies. All this is going on all the time, 24/7. It’s quite a remarkable set
of reading material for the immune system and, unfortunately, it makes mistakes. So when the mistake has to do
with seeing tissue in the body that should be left alone,
bad things happen. This example is a picture
of a piece of the pancreas, that’s a little gushy organ that sits
right here in our abdomen, this cluster that you’re looking at
of cells in there, are the cells
that make insulin in the body. Insulin is required for life,
it’s an essential hormone. What happens if
the immune system reads signals that say “Attack the normal tissue
that makes insulin”? A mistaken signal
or a misreading of the signal, what happens is the immune cells,
these little blue dots, start swarming in and start
attacking that normal tissue. It progresses to the point
where they damage these cells so badly that they can no longer make insulin. This is actually the cause
of type I diabetes, juvenile diabetes or auto-immune diabetes,
it has several names. It’s not a disease caused
by some metabolic problem, it’s a disease of the immune system
making mistakes. Unfortunately there are
a lot of these signals and there are a lot
of mistakes to be made and our immune systems aren’t perfect. In fact, our immune systems are these
error-prone complex biologic systems that can attack
any normal tissue in the body. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks
the cartilage around the joints. In the case of multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks
the insulating layers around the nerves in the brain and in the spinal chord. Crohn’s disease
or inflammatory bowel disease, that’s the immune system
attacking the lining of the gut. Pemphigus, vitiligo, those are examples
of the immune system attacking the skin. And on, and on, and on, there are over
80 of these auto-immune diseases. Auto-immune because the immune system
is attacking our own self-tissue. It’s made a mistake. About 5 percent of us have one
of these auto-immune diseases. There’s a lot of mistakes
to be made out there, and the immune system makes them. If you include immune-mediated
diseases like asthma and allergy, where the immune system is also
over-active and making mistakes, between 15 and 20 percent of us
have these diseases. Now, that’s the bad news. The good news is that the immune system has developed to try to regulate itself. It’s ordinarily a balanced system with cells that damage tissue
and cells that try to repair tissue. Cells that cause the inflammation, cells that try to regulate
the inflammation. When things are in balance, we’re healthy,
our immune systems are healthy. So this balance goes on all the time. Let me give you a bit
of an analogy for this. Picture a game of ping-pong
between two professional players. The ball going fast and furious
across the net, back and forth, it’s a very well-orchestrated,
beautiful, synchronized game. Picture a stadium now,
full of hundreds of these tables, all in play at the same time,
all with players, you’re watching from above,
it can be quite an orchestrated, synchronized athletic program. But now somebody
in the middle of the field misreads the ball, hits it off,
disrupt the play, sometimes the ball even
bounces off across the neighboring tables a few times and disrupts their play, there’s a little focus of chaos
right in the middle. That sort of thing happens
all the time in our immune system. Most of the time it’s regulated, most of the time
our natural systems keep balance, chime in and control that, bring it back into
a normal balanced situation. But when it doesn’t, we have to do
something about that, therapeutically. And I guess I would say it’s about time,
because for the last 50 years the way that we have treated
these kinds of auto-immune diseases is through something
called immunosuppression. It basically is an approach that says “Let’s block the immune system,” “Let’s interfere with the process
and stop the immune system.” Sort of like blindfolding a person. If you had a student
who was having trouble reading, you could fix the errors
that they made in reading by putting a blindfold on them,
they wouldn’t make any mistakes. (Laughter)
Yeah. They wouldn’t be learning to read. That is essentially what
we’ve been doing for 50 years in immune therapies. What we’re doing now,
in the last few years, is taking the knowledge
of how the immune system works, some of the signals and pathways that I’ve been just alluding to here
in the last few minutes, and putting all these pieces
of the puzzle together to understand what
this orchestrated set of events and signals and recognition
is supposed to look like and how the game
is supposed to be played, how to keep it
in an orchestrated normal mode, something we call tolerance, but it’s basically re-educating
the immune response to do what it’s supposed
to do in the first place, to be in a balanced state
that’s tightly regulated. What do I mean by
these kinds of therapeutics? Sometimes they’re drugs,
they go in and create new signposts, new messages for the immune system
to read in the body. Sometimes they’re just
teaching the immune system to read the signs that are
already there a little better. Sometimes they’re therapies
that remove some of the signs that are causing the problem and have been used
in the process of the disease. But each of them is focused on trying
to re-educate the immune system and get back to where it’s supposed to be. Besides being sort of more
sophisticated and elegant, there’s a real reason for this and that is that
the immunosuppression, over here, is dangerous, because
blocking the immune system means that it blocks the immune system
from protecting you from infection. So we don’t want to do that. We’d much rather re-educate
the immune system to be selective, to do what we want it to do and let
the rest of the immune system do what it’s supposed to do
in terms of protecting us. Probably the most important thing
I’m going to tell you today is that what I’ve been saying
is not hypothetical, it’s not theoretical,
it’s not futuristic. It’s actually happening now. There are many people
in our community who are participating
in the research studies and the clinical trials
to test these new therapeutics, to attempt to re-direct the immune system, to help us learn
how to approach these diseases in this orchestrated, regulated fashion. Even just in the last few years, patients with diseases like rheumatoid
arthritis and multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease have a whole new set
of therapeutic options that are directed
at this re-education process. It’s a very exciting era for patients,
for physicians, for scientists. I want to thank you for listening to me
for these few minutes and if any of you are interested
in further information, here’s a couple of websites for you, and The story that I’ve told you
is a remarkable story. But the next chapter
is still to be written. Thank you very much. (Applause)


  • Nathan Benkhe says:

    Glad I stumbled upon this TED talk. I just recently developed a general auto-immune disease that is attacking my joints and connective tissues. Resulting in not being able to work. I can barely get out of a chair or off the toilet and in some cases, if a chair is too low I simply can't get up without assistance. My hands are like claws and I'm unable to open them or grip anything. Pain and swelling in my feet makes it impossible to be on my feet for long. I am finally getting treatment and starting to improve on a long list of drugs but the side effects and long term damage from these drugs are horrible and I hope someday we can move past this current method of treatment. I have since signed up for a clinical trial. I hope I can be involved in changing the outlook for others like myself. Donations can also be given. I highly suggest anybody who knows somebody with an auto immune disease to make a donation to help possibly make a positive change in treatment options.

  • AtlantisArch says:

    another drug manufacturer that dont want to he al the source but to keep selling you drug$$. They dont really want to help but themselves.

    diabete ? let's talk about cow milk poisonning. let's talk about vaccines poisonning. let's talk about fasting.
    and so on …

    and the most troubling thing this guy doesn't say is that regular or heavy anti inflammatory using is the root of cancer enabling.

  • Roffi Grandiosa says:

    braille cell surface.. nice concept

  • andor szentadorjany says:

    NOW…NOW WE are talking."real TURKEY"… it is ABOUT TIME we get away from a "BARBARIC"…DEATH CARE system…

  • Carolyn King says:

    Please hurry , I cant live with my body attacking itself everyday,

  • dawna lohbihler says:

    If you have MS, re-educate your immune system with diet as well. Look into Dr. Jelinek (overcoming MS) and Dr. Wahls (another TED talk). I was diagnosed in 1992 and am doing much better than the doctors predicted over the years. But I have to admit, I really miss cheese.

  • Tamrelyne Matchokgre Momin says:

    My immune system is drunk too
    Attacking good cells

  • Tamara Larimore says:

    Nutrition from early on and detoxification from a biotherapeutic aspect can retrain and allow the body to heal and right itself. Drugs can only temporary at best deal with symptoms of the body, but never eradicate the core issue. Drugs become ineffective leading to other drugs that ultimately create more problems in the body and oftentimes worsening the original problem or creating a bigger problem than the original dis-ease(simply a body out of balance.)

  • ImmortalTrip Jeffrey says:


  • PrinceOfLight4 says:

    This poor demented individual should be in a mental institution…………………. ALL they want to do is sell more disease……………..
    How about education on prevention!?!
    How about "let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food"

  • deepak paudl says:

    Healthy diet, healthy circadian rhythm = good immune system

  • HotChocolateDivaaah says:

    Our immune system is made perfectly by our creator. We have failed it by our greed(FDA) and laziness. But mostly greed!

  • Gustav Bloom says:

    Not a word about how it's done. Please just a hint.

  • Karla Felix says:

    Hello, please increase the volume of these videos.

  • Wasib Tk says:

    I have ankylosing spondylitis almost my whole life. I can't bear this pain anymore. What should I do? I have made diet related changes years ago, but still don't feel great.

  • Tushar Phadatare says:

    We are expecting this treatment in india

  • Chandra Tyler says:

    Not once did you mention nutrition. What about curing the cause not curing the symptoms. The immune system is only reacting to the junk that people put into their bodies. Teach people to fuel their bodies correctly otherwise if you don’t turn off the tap you will always be mopping up in the other corners.

  • Armando Zessar says:

    After chemotherapy,if failed,and also destroying bone marrow,in absences of Antibodies,what's you stimulating ? It's likes doings a vaccines to a People:s with not immunes systems. The only thing that's can be done,is looking after your foods, but it's all mostly impossible,because foods can be related to Bacterias or to Mycotoxins; firstly avoid all Sulphur containing foods,they're good on preventing Cancer. Potatoes only Frye to eliminates mold , I stopping here,because it's too difficult goings furthermore. And Good Luck.

  • 3chords says:

    Hmmmm….big rises in auto immune issues across the developed world. Seems like the immune system is getting confused or attacking the wrong thing ie the body. The immune system going wrong and not doing what it should naturally do? What could possibly be causing this? Hmmm….let's think?

    I wonder if there is something environmental that could be disrupting or confusing our immune systems? It would have to be something many millions are exposed to I guess. Kids are growing up with this disorder so maybe also something we get at an early age? But what could it possibly be? Maybe some kind of medical intervention , or food , or something in the water? Are there any clues? We would be looking for something that strongly interacts with the immune system , possibly confusing the immune system in an unnatural way , in a way its not evolved to expect? Is there any obvious candidate? Help!

    Ohhhh…… it's so hard to think of anything like that. There's nothing that stands out that might really disrupt or confuse our immune systems. It's such a mystery….unless…NO! It couldn't be could it? No! Not possible , because we know they are safe………….not "those things"….the thing that cannot be spoken about. The sacred cow that cannot be questioned………lest the charge of "misinformation" is brought against thee!!

  • Norma Snockers says:

    What a waste of time watching this. Video title is more click bait.

  • Rajendra Pathak says:

    I hv autoimmune n I.think it's ol about nutrition gutt colon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *