Hum. Genet. 139 (6-7) 795-799 [2020-06-00; online 2020-02-10]
The human immune system consists of multiple, layered mechanisms of sensing and responding to cellular stress, infection and tissue damage to ensure defense from pathogens, maintenance of tissue homeostasis, and the integrity of the holobiont. Every single cell in the body has a role to play, but a few dozen, specialized white blood cells are particularly important in this respect. Understanding the overall state of this multifaceted system in a single individual is challenging, and we are only beginning to do this across populations of individuals, to understand the vast range of inter-individual variation, and the influences of genes and environmental factors that collectively shape the immune system in a given individual. We are also only beginning to understand the changes occurring within this system over time, and how this relates to health and disease susceptibility. Several technological breakthroughs in recent years have enabled these developments and the emergence of a new, complementary approach to studying human immune systems, namely systems immunology. In this paradigm, the focus is shifted from the understanding of individual immune system components and their mechanisms of action, towards analyses of cell-cell interactions, and mechanisms of coordination and regulation within the human immune system.