Meet Dr. Dennis Alexander, director of the Fairday Institute at Cambridge University, who claims that religious explanation can be used as a matrix to relate scientific realities to human nature. In this first part of a three part series, Dr. Alex...
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Laura: How should we evaluate a piece of art, a masterpiece from a great painter? Through scientific analysis of chemical components? Through aesthetic analysis and harmony of color? Or through trying to understand what the painter means by the painting? Or perhaps all three methods have something to offer. Hello and welcome to Matter and Beyond. I’m Laura Wells. Today we will visit Dr. Dennis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute at Cambridge University, who is constantly amazed by the extraordinary nature of the human immune system. In his book Rebuilding the Matrix, he explains how religious explanation can be used as a matrix to relate scientific realities to human nature. Please join us as we explore ourselves and the rest of nature using multiple and complimentary explanations that Dr. Dennis Alexander calls scientific, aesthetic, ethical and religious layers. Male: Over the years, Dr. Alexander has studied an important component of the immune system, t-cells. T-cells are also known as white blood cells. Their job is to serve as an active defense against disease and infection in our bodies. They begin their work in our thymus gland where they received specific programming. Dr. Alexander: T-cells which are the white blood cells that defend us against viruses and bacteria all have to be educated in the thymus and so they have this very strict program of education. Male: Only a small numbers, about 1%-2%, make it through this program. While in the thymus gland, t-cells receive information about what a human cell is supposed to be like and what is supposed to be found in blood. The t-cells that do not incorporate this information are wiped out immediately. Dr. Alexander: If you have that sort of system in our educational system, I think we would look on it as not very successful, you know, if 98% of all our undergraduates die, we wouldn’t think that was a very good system. But in the thymus, it is actually what works very well. Male: The result is a powerful group of t-cell that can tell the difference between healthy human tissue and foreign antigens like viruses and bacteria. When these invaders enter the body, they accurately attack them and prevent serious illness. Dr. Alexander: Its really wonderful, amazing system that it works, in a way it does work. Now once the t-cells get out in the periphery, that’s to say the bloodstream, in the spleen and the other places in the guts and so forth, then there are other mechanisms in place to keep them under control and to make sure again. Double check, so that they don’t actually start attacking your body. Male: Sometimes the system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to and the t-cells attack the wrong thing. Even a small change in the immune system can cause the t-cells to attack something like necessary sugars in the body. Dr. Alexander: There are mistakes made and so you get things like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis and they sort of alter immune diseases and that’s where the t-cells start attacking the tissues of your body. But it’s amazing that most of the time it doesn’t happen, thankfully. And it’s all down to the thymus in a way how they educate the t-cells. Male: But t-cells aren’t the only cells around. The human body has entire sets of different type of cells each with its own specific and detailed function within the immune system. All of these cells are able to cooperate to keep the body healthy. Dr. Alexander: And so for example, t-cells you have helper t-cells that help the b-cells in order to develop and to make antibodies. Then you have killer the t-cells that are actually involved in wiping out viral and infected cells. and so they all coordinate together in a rather delicately controlled complex balance in order to bring about the immune response. Male: Another component of the immune system is the k-cells, which are also called natural killer cells. B-cells and t-cells are the base for the immune system that you develop about 10-14 days after birt

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