About this course

The immune system is very powerful and very versatile. Most people forget it is just as capable of destroying your own cells as it is those of a pathogen.

In this biology and life sciences course, we’ll flip the basic question of, “How does the immune system protect you?” to, “How can your immune system endanger you?”

First, we will look at basic mechanisms that determine whether the immune system is roused to action or instructed to stand down, including the roles of inflammasomes and T regulatory cells and the results of mutation to genes and their importance in producing regulatory proteins. Then, we will apply these insights to explain the etiology and treatment of autoimmune diseases and look at a variety of misdirected immune attacks, including allergies, attacks on red blood cells and cellular responses that can produce damage ranging from rashes to autoimmune cellular destruction. Finally we will discuss the protection of transplants from an immune system that views them as foreign invaders instead of necessary replacements.

What you’ll learn

  • Inflammation and Tolerance: how the immune system decides whether to attack
  • Survey of Autoimmune Diseases: their etiology, treatment and prevention
  • Hypersensitivity: allergies, asthma, attacks by cells and antibodies, prevention and treatment
  • Transplants: testing for compatibility, treatment to prevent rejection, example survey


  • Introductory biology
  • Immune basics. Recommended completion of Fundamentals of Immunology Part 1 and Fundamentals of Immunology Part 2

Professor Information

Picture of Dr. Alma Moon Novotny

Dr. Alma Moon Novotny

Alma Novotny earned her PhD from Purdue University in Developmental Biology under the direction of Michael Forman.  She has taught college courses for over forty years in plant and animal sciences, genetics and introductory, cell and developmental biology.  She has

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