One of my greatest reading experiences as a young student is the chapter on biological membranes in Stryer’s Biochemistry. The text was about how the cell perimeter is built up. The solution is as ingenious as simple: Soap! I was so thrilled that I gave away a copy of the book to a friend. Stryer was almost as exciting as a mystery novel! But what does this have to do with the immune system?

Continue reading

Death in Surinam

In 1845 a group of Dutchmen emigrated to South America and founded a colony in Suriname. Two weeks after their arrival 180 people died from typhoid fever. Two years later another 37 died of yellow fever. These two epidemics killed more than half of the Dutch emigrants in Suriname.

HLA molecules are the cells' message boards. They show forth what is inside cells

HLA molecules are the cells’ noticeboards. They show forth what is inside cells

In 1979, more than 100 years later, blodbank doctors in the Netherlands began to unravel the mystery of these devastating epidemics. Was it arbitrary who survived the diseases? If not, what protected some people but not others? The doctors compared the 4th generation immigrants in Suriname and Dutch blood donors.

Continue reading