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A model of the role of natural killer cells in immune surveillance — I

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The theory of immune surveillance of Thomas and Burnet stated in part that antigenic differences between neoplastic and normal cells provide the stimulus for their destruction by cells of the immune system. Burnet pointed to the T lymphocyte as the cell which mediated this surveillance. The existence of some form of surveillance in cases of no T lymphocyte functioning presents the possibility that surveillance, if present at all, is mediated by non T cells.

Cells identified as naturally cytotoxic killer (NK) cells appear to have properties required of a surveillance effector population. This paper utilizes properties of NK cells and the effects of interferon on this population to construct a mathematical model of the characteristics that an NK cell surveillance would have. A two level theory of immune surveillance is proposed.

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This research has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grant #NSF-Eng. 7904852

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Merrill, S.J. A model of the role of natural killer cells in immune surveillance — I. J. Math. Biology 12, 363–373 (1981).

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Key words

  • NK cells
  • Immune surveillance