Who would have thought that the wild sheep in the Northwest not only would be the subject of a New York Times article but that they also might hold keys into understanding the human immune system. I’m Susa Allen inviting you to stay tuned for Open Range. My mother has suffered for years from a rare immune disease so I was so surprised to read in a New York Times article that wild sheep from the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon are currently being studied in the hopes of better understanding the human immune system. It’s called eco-immunology, researching how wild animal populations are effected by diseases, like blue tongue in our deer herds also why Bighorn sheep are so venerable to pneumonia spread from domestic sheep. Then there is the factor of how wild animals pass diseases to humans. The Times piece stated that over the last 30 years more than 300 infectious diseases have come from animals; SARS, AIDS, Lyme, West Nile even new strains of the flu”. Lab animals can’t be used for immune system studies as they don’t reflect a true environment being bred for certain genetics. With the wild sheep population biologists want to better understand when and if they should vaccinated and if human intervention simply cause more complex problems. Researching wild animal diseases also might explain why more and more people like my mother now suffer from autoimmune disorders because unlike humans wild animals provide immune systems that haven’t been altered with decades antibiotics, a clean slate for researchers.