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Understanding Immunity

Understanding Immunity

A quick look at what the immunity system really consists of.

We often hear about ‘strengthening immunity’ and know that our body is equipped to fight certain harmful agents without external help – such as medicine. But we often take this system for granted – assuming more, knowing less.

The immunity system is an amazingly complex network of cells, tissues and organs, all tasked with the responsibility of keeping foreign invaders at bay. It can recognize and remember millions of different enemies, and produce secretions and cells to finish them off – guerrilla style!

Warrior Zones

This system is made of different components situated at strategic locations in the body, each assigned with certain functions that show up only when specific antigens are introduced. Antibodies (immunoglobulins) are the cells that remove the foreign particles in our body.

Image link: http://www.imgt.org/IMGTeducation/Tutorials/ImmuneSystem/UK/the_immune_system.pdf

Here’s what makes up the immunity system, one part at a time.

Tonsils and thymus gland help make antibodies that fight infections.

Bone marrow, which is found mainly inside the long bones, vertebrae, and pelvic bones of the body, make white blood cells.

Spleen, located on the upper left side in the abdomen, helps recognize bacteria and other foreign substances in order to destroy them.

Lymphatic vessels carry fluid, nutrients, and waste materials between body tissues and the bloodstream. Lymph nodes filter and trap germs from this lymph fluid, for white blood cells to seek-and-destroy the problem-causing bodies.

Leukocytes, which are part of the immune system, are made by the red blood cells and platelets. Those in turn come from the Red Bone Marrow.

Leukocytes exist in different forms:

  • Lymphocytes identify and remember enemy microorganisms. They can be broken down into B cells and T cells. B cells produce antibodies. Once the antibodies find the antigens, T cells hear the call and go for the kill

  • Phagocytes gorge on those microorganisms and clear all the mess, left behind by the T cells. That’s what you call a clean-up job!

  • Basophils are duty bound to solving allergies and inflammation

The foot soldiers of your body, the white blood cells may seem small in number, this army make up only 1 percent of total cells in 5 litres of blood in an average human adult body. In each micro-litre of blood, you have between 5,000 and 10,000 white blood cells. That’s enough to pack a powerful punch!

 

Bacteria, Viruses and Parasites

In order to battle the foreign particles, our body has to identify what these are along with the degree of harm they can cause. These foreign particles are called microbes (germs/antigens) – tiny, infection-causing organisms that come in different avatars.

  • Bacteria usually live in spaces between cells and are promptly attacked by antibodies. Some of them are consumed by phagocytes, while rest are attacked by the T cells.

  • Viruses, are organisms that border on the living-non-living line. They require entering cells in order to survive. This means an equally lethal tactic has to be imposed to resist the ingress. Antibodies assist in response by attaching themselves to the viruses and destroying them before they have a chance to enter the cell.

  • Parasites live either inside or outside cells. Intracellular parasites are handled effortlessly by T-cell responses. Extracellular parasites are bigger than bacteria and viruses. Blood components such as eosinophils, basophils, and other specialized granular cells rush to release their toxic chemicals in an attempt to destroy this invader. Which is why after viral infections, these are the areas that show changes in numbers in subsequent blood reports.

Victory is Yours !

If you are showing symptoms of the disease, be unafraid. Because disease symptoms are sometimes the result of your immune system doing its job just the way it should be!

The common cold, for instance. Your immune system gears into action when the rhinovirus invades the epithelial cells in your upper respiratory tract. Chemicals called “histamines” dilate your blood vessels, allowing proteins and white blood cells to reach the infected epithelial tissues. This joyous inflammation of the blood vessels is what causes nasal congestion and a runny nose. Sniff Sniff. Let loose those happy tears!

 

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