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Systems Immunology: How Do We Know When We Have Sampled Enough?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar

Systems Immunology: How Do We Know When We Have Sampled Enough?

Uri Hershberg, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems
College of Medicine, Department of Immunology and Microbiology
Drexel University

Adaptive immunity protects us from recurrent disease and is the basis for the success of vaccines and many novel cancer therapeutics. At the Systems Immunology Lab, we study how the cooperative action of huge populations of individual cells drives the process of adaptation in the immune system. We combine data analysis of high throughput individual cell measurements with modeling to create a data driven view of the immune system.

The immune system protects us through the diversity of the population of B cells that can create antibodies to a nearly infinite array of antigens. Each B cell has a unique B-cell receptor that defines its specificity of response. A key element in the comparison of the behavior of immune cells and B cell populations is the definition of individual clonotypes (sets of cells that are derived from a common progenitor cell with a common B-cell receptor, or BCR). Clonotypes comprise the basic building blocks of repertoires and their response.

During an immune response to disease, the population of B cells undergoes affinity maturation, a process of induced BCR gene mutation, and competitive B cell proliferation and death that leads to the selection of specific B cell mutants and clonotypes that have a better response to the disease. During a lifetime, the history of immune responses changes our B cell repertoire population and the clonotypes that comprise it. In the Systems Immunology Lab, we study immune B cell populations as a means to elucidate the basic building blocks of immune responses and adaptations. In my talk, I will use examples from different recent studies in the lab, published in Nature Biotechnology, Nature Immunology, and elsewhere to showcase some of the conclusions and challenges of our research. In particular, I will focus on how we determine that, despite the huge diversity of the immune repertoire (1011 different B cells in a single persons B cell population), we have sampled enough for specific types of analysis, and will present our results identifying two orthogonal B cell repertoires in the human gut and blood tissues.

The correct use of such tools and the findings we have achieved are key to our ability to develop individualized medicines and analyze the actual function of immunity in real time. I hope to convince you to come join the Systems Immunology Lab in this interesting and important endeavor.

Uri Hershberg, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the Drexel University School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems and in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Drexel University College of Medicine. He leads the Systems Immunology Lab at Drexel, which is one of the leading labs in the world for the study and computational analysis of B cell receptor repertoires. SImLab developed several tools for analysis and modeling of immunology experiments used for research published in Nature, Journal of Experimental Medicine, and other leading journals. Most importantly, they have developed ImmuneDB (, a tool for rapid database creation, analysis, visualization, and dissemination of high throughput B cell receptor and T cell receptor sequencing experiments. In recent work, published in Nature Biotechnology, Dr. Hershberg has used ImmuneDB to lead the first study of B cell repertoires in human tissues, leading to the discovery that the gut and blood tissues have orthogonal B cell receptor repertoires.

Dr. Hershberg has published over 45 papers on topics related to B-cell, T-cell, and dendritic cell immunity, as well as the defining complex system criteria of cognitive perceptual systems, using the immune system as an example. In 2016-17, he organized a research group and international conference on stochasticity and control in immune repertoires at the Israeli Institute for Advanced Studies. Dr. Hershberg was the 2017-2018 awardee of the Australasian Society for Immunology (ASI) ’s visiting speaker program.

Contact Information

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