How does our body detect and destroy foreign invaders? Why does the body attack itself in diseases such as diabetes? And what is cancer immunotherapy? This and other questions are answered in a new animation released today by the Davis and Cornall groups at our MRC Human Immunology Unit (MRC HIU).
The two labs worked together with Oxford Sparks, the University of Oxford platform for science engagement, to produce a new animation aimed at school students that introduces the main players of the immune system and some of the latest research trying to harness this knowledge to fight diseases such as cancer.
"The opportunity of being involved in making a movie to explain the wonders of the immune system was extremely appealing." said Dr Mafalda Santos, a postdoctoral researcher in the Davis group (Radcliffe Department of Medicine) "The first challenge was to explain our scientific work in a way that the public (including animators and writers, among others) would easily understand, while conveying the essence of what we do in a simple but rigorous manner."
Creating the animation was an exciting project for the researchers involved, as they had to condense the complexity of the immune system and decades of research in a short, snappy video. There was also the additional challenge of working with the animators at Scriberia who, though specialising on animations on research, are not specialists in Biology.
“It can be quite difficult to communicate stories about the complexities of the immune system without using a lot of science jargon." said Dr Mukta Deobagkar, a postdoctoral researcher in the Cornall group (Nuffield Department of Medicine) "Everybody involved, including Oxford Sparks, the scriptwriter, and the animators were very enthusiastic about simplifying this process. They asked the right questions and the many to-and-fro discussions have resulted in a simple and elegant narrative. Also, their space invaders game pitch, as an analogy of the immune system, was absolutely brilliant!"
The researchers hope that this animation may be a useful resource for immunologists interested in engaging a wider audience on this fascinating area of research, both within and outside Oxford. More information about the researchers, and the science behind the animation, can be found on the Oxford Sparks website.
The project is part of the MRC HIU's public engagement programme, which in the past has also included other projects such as Facebook Live event on the science of viruses or a teachers workshop on microscopy and antibodies. This animation was generously funded by the Wellcome Trust.