Overview of the Human Immunology Initiative

Deficiencies in the immune system, either genetic or acquired, are key contributors to most chronic conditions and diseases. Our understanding of the immune system and of new preventive and therapeutic approaches is due, in large part, to the use of animal models (mostly mice), however, the animal and human immune systems are often very different. For this reason, it is generally agreed that the translation of immunology research from animals to humans is challenging and that focused studies with the human immune system are required.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system reacts to self-antigens. Several autoimmune diseases have been identified, in which one or several organs can be targeted by the immune system. Sex differences exist in the incidence, progression and severity of many autoimmune diseases, but this is not often taken into consideration in studies. A better understanding of sex-related mechanisms – and of human immune system function and dysfunction more generally – are necessary for advancing the translation of basic science discoveries into improved management of human autoimmune diseases.

Following a number of consultation workshops with collaborating Institutes and the research community, it was concluded that analysis of the human immune system lacks standardization. As such, there is an urgent need to develop and apply standard operating procedures (SOPs) and common approaches for translational research and its application to cohorts in Canada.

The Human Immunology Initiative involves standardization and its application in autoimmune disease research. It is divided into two distinct funding opportunities:

  1. Standardization Core; and
  2. Research Teams.

The overall goal of this initiative is to create a coordinated workforce in human immunology research and build capacity to develop standardization methods to test novel therapeutic approaches to modulate the human immune system in the context of autoimmune diseases. The Human Immunology Research Teams will conduct research on autoimmune diseases and will apply the standardization methodologies developed by the Standardized core when applicable. The Research Teams will provide feedback to the Standardization Core on their needs regarding standardized procedures and the applicability to research projects.

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