What is Immunology?

Immunology is the study of the immune system.

The immune system helps wounds heal and protects against infection and cancer. It includes two subsystems: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.


Innate Immunity 

Innate immunity is the first line of defense. It involves:  

  • Physical barriers, including skin and saliva  

  • Cells, including macrophages, natural killer cells (NK cells), neutrophils, basophils, and mast cells  

Recent research has revealed that innate immune responses are pathogen-specific, tailored to the microenvironmental context, and dependent on the history of prior exposure that affects the metabolic and epigenomic states of cells.  

These insights provide new opportunities to understand host pathogen interactions, wound healing, vaccine development, and anti-tumor responses.  

Adaptive Immunity  

Adaptive immunity is the second line of defense. It’s created by the development of genetic memory of encountered pathogens.  

It involves:  

  • B-cells and their antibodies 

  • T-cells with specific receptors. The receptors recognize non-self antigens that can directly kill infected and cancerous cells or help control the B-cell’s antibody response.  

Understanding these mechanisms informs new approaches to engineering and enhancing immunity, especially for cancer and gene therapies. 

Immune Dysregulation 

A dysregulated immune system may lead to fibrotic and autoimmune disease. 

Affiliated Faculty  

Our faculty study the cellular and molecular components of immunity and how these interact dynamically to generate a multi-layered immune response in health and disease. 

Alexander Hoffmann

Alexander Hoffmann, PhD

Thomas M. Asher Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences (QCBio)
Stephen T Smale

Stephen T Smale, PhD

Sherie L. Morrison Chair in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Distinguished Professor
Maureen Su

Maureen A Su, MD

Morrison Family Endowed Chair and Professor and Associate Director of UCLA-Caltech MSTP
Owen N Witte

Owen N Witte, MD

President's Chair in Developmental Immunology and Distinguished Professor
Jerome Zack

Jerome A Zack, PhD

Distinguished Professor, Department Chair, and Co-Director of UCLA AIDS Institute

Affiliated Emeritus Faculty