Morphostasis and Immunity

(1992 version)

This is the same version, or a very similar one, to that which was submitted in late 1992. There may be some changes in the text that were sent on to the editor in 1993 (before rejection). It still contains points that, I believe, are of importance.

In this article, I have used the phrase "soma/scavenger segregation"; "parenchyma/scavenger segregation" might be more appropriate. None of these descriptions are ideal. Perhaps "fixed-tissue/mobile-scavenger segregation" is an improvement or even "static-tissue-cell/invasive-immune-cell segregation". The important point is that defence cells must be kept to a minimal number and minimal aggression in healthy functional organs (muscle, tendon and blood vessels are included). The ingress and activity of scavengers/other-immune-cells are only ramped up when they are "invited" in and it usually starts with just phagocytes that then ramp up the recruitment of the other immune-cell-invitees.

"Morphostasis and immunity" – 1992.

Rejection notes:

This submission was rejected (seven months after submission) with the following comments:

March 1993:

"Thank you for the new version of your paper. We will not be sending this on to the referees. We are very embarrassed by the length of time our referees have taken with your paper" (seven months – my "bold" emphasis), "but have finally obtained a referee's report. I regret to say that it is very negative. I am enclosing part of the report. In general, our referees feel that the paper is far too discursive. I would not advise you to revise the paper in anything like its present form. (Referee's report follows) . . .//. . . the author sets great store by 'seamlessness', the integration of large areas of biological thinking into what he himself is not ashamed to propose has the promise of a 'grand unification theory'. I am reminded of the aspirations of Herbert Spencer, who was also not ashamed to attempt the integration of everything in his System of Philosophy. And I am tempted to recall what George Eliot said about Herbert Spencer as well, after a visit with him to Kew Gardens for a 'scientific expedition' to test some notions or other, that 'if the flowers didn't agree with his theories, why, tant pis pour les fleurs!' The author feels that immunologists are barking up the wrong tree, with all their emphasis on lymphocytes, receptors, major histocompatibility antigens and so on. Or so he says, in no uncertain terms at the beginning of his essay. Surely, he argues, we should concentrate on other criteria by which health and disease are recorded in animal tissues. For reasons which are not absolutely clear to me, he focuses his attention on epithelia, where electrical connectivity is a sign of health, and disconnection evidence of disorder. There is something appealing to him about the fact that gap junctions have holes in them, evidence that cytotoxic mechanisms and normal healthy interactions between cells are seamlessly related to each other (see the figure appended to the manuscript). Although the manuscript is very long, I do not in fact see any argument as to why the author has selected this attribute as the key marker of health and disease. It just seems to be his idea, that's all. To substantiate his notion that immunologists are missing the point (his phrase), he urges that signals involved in the formation and failure of epithelial connectivity are older in phylogeny than components of the immune system. So what? The immune system is what it is; its evolution is a matter of interest, a lot of conjecture, and increasingly pertinent evidence from lower vertebrates and invertebrates. Lets get on with something small and discriminating and leave the author to his fervid generalisations.