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The vaccinologist's "dirty little secret": a better understanding of structure‑function relationships of viral immunogens might advance rational HIV vaccine design

Greslehner, Gregor P. (2021) The vaccinologist's "dirty little secret": a better understanding of structure‑function relationships of viral immunogens might advance rational HIV vaccine design. Archives of Virology.

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Abstract

I will offer a conceptual analysis of different notions of structure and function of viral immunogens and of different structure-function relationships. My focus will then be on the mechanisms by which the desired immune response is induced and why strategies based on three-dimensional molecular antigen structures and their rational design are limited in their ability to induce the desired immunogenicity. I will look at the mechanisms of action of adjuvants (thus the wordplay with Janeway's "immunologist’s dirty little secret"). Strategies involving adjuvants and other (more successful) vaccination strategies rely on taking into account activities and functions ("what is going on"), and not just the structures involved ("who is there"), in binding in a “lock and key” fashion. Functional patterns as well as other organizational and temporal patterns, I will argue, are crucial for inducing the desired immune response and immunogenicity. The 3D structural approach by itself has its benefits – and its limits, which I want to highlight by this philosophical analysis, pointing out the importance of structure-function relationships. Different functional aspects such as antigenicity, immunogenicity, and immunity need to be kept separate and cannot be reduced to three-dimensional structures of vaccines. Taking into account different notions of structure and function and their relationships might thus advance our understanding of the immune system and rational HIV vaccine design, to which end philosophy can provide useful tools.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Greslehner, Gregor P.gregor.greslehner@gmail.com0000-0002-4072-8229
Keywords: HIV vaccination; structure-function relationships; immunogenicity; philosophy of biology
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Health and Disease
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Depositing User: Dr. Gregor P. Greslehner
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2021 14:18
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2021 14:18
Item ID: 18879
Journal or Publication Title: Archives of Virology
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00705-021-04982-7
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Health and Disease
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Date: 2021
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18879

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