Immunology – What is it, and is it important?


High school students visit MUHC to learn from the experts

What are T-cells and how are they affected by HIV? How do vaccines work? What happens when our immune system over functions? These are a few of the questions that will be answered at the inaugural Immunology Day held at the MUHC on Friday, March 9, 2007. More than 50 secondary-four high school students will visit the Research Institute of the MUHC and learn from experts how our bodies fight pathogens and what happens when we can’t.

“This is an excellent opportunity to showcase what we do in a learning environment,” says MUHC immunologist and visit coordinator Dr. Marianna Newkirk. “This type of outreach is extremely important and part of all our mandates. These young individuals may be future researchers but also decision makers, who need to understand the importance and impact of basic medical research.”

Students will attend a lecture about basic immunology given by Dr. Phil Gold, executive director of the MUHC’s Clinical Research Centre, and then divide into groups for a more hands-on experience. Graduate students will demonstrate what cells of the immune system can do, as well as answer questions about their own work on auto-immune disease, HIV and measles.

“The students are excited about attending,” says Lower Canada College biology teacher Marc Shefler. “Many of them are interested in pursuing a career in medicine or science and this is an excellent opportunity for them to experience this environment. We are thankful to both Drs. Gold and Newkirk for organizing this effort.”

According to Dr. Newkirk the students will learn about immunology—the branch of science dealing with the study of our body’s ability to defend itself against infection.

“When our immune system works well, we are healthy. However when it does not work, diseases such as allergy, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even some kinds of cancer may occur. Over the past 50 years, we have made huge breakthroughs in understanding this system. We have used this knowledge to our advantage, developing and implementing vaccinations for many common, formerly devastating, infectious diseases. However, there is still much to learn,” she adds.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1,000 graduate and post-doctoral students, and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For further details visit:

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Contact Information

Seeta Ramdass
MUHC Public Relations and Communications
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