Immunology has contributed to biomedical education in many important ways since the creation of scientific medicine in the last quarter of the 19th century. Today, immunology is a major area of biomedical research. Nevertheless, there are many basic problems unresolved in immunological activities and phenomena. Solving these problems is probably necessary to devise predictable and safe ways to produce new vaccines, treat allergy and autoimmune diseases and perform safe transplants. This challenge involves not only technical developments but also changes in attitude, of which the most fundamental is to abandon the traditional stimulus-response perspective in favor of more "systemic" views. Describing immunological activities as the operation of a complex multiconnected network, raises biological and epistemological issues not usually dealt with in biomedical education.
Here we point to one example of systemic approaches. A new form of immunoblot (Panama blot), by which the reaction of natural immunoglobulins with complex protein mixtures may be analyzed by a special software and multivariate statistics, has been recently used to characterize human autoimmune diseases. Our preliminary data show that Panama blots can also be used to characterize global (systemic) immunogical changes in chronic human parasitic diseases, such as malaria and schistosomiasis mansoni, that correlate with the clinical status.