ACQUIRED IMMUNITY: WHERE AND HOW
Part III continues our series with a focus on specific defense. In a nutshell, the main immune players can be likened to different types military forces. Microphages and macrophages are the local police (see Part II), white blood cells are the standing army, at-the-ready, from all divisions, and immunoglobulins are the the special ops class, trained to react with precision in order to eliminate the enemy.
ANTIGENS AND ANTIBODIES: Immunoglobulins and White Blood Cells
Specific defense (acquired/adaptive) can be likened to the military’s special ops. The immune cells are found in the body tissue and on cell membranes, and their key function is to protect against pathogenic organisms or other sources of not-self. Specific defenses are unique responses (antibodies) to not-self elements (antigens).
An antigen is a foreign substance that sets off an immune response. Antigens can be microbial (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) and non-microbial (poison plants, insect bites, and tree pollen). Our body creates antibodies to counteract each antigen.
Antibodies are proteins called immunoglobulins. There are five types of immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, and IgE), to respond to different kinds of enemies (antigens), located in different types of body tissue and fluids.
Structurally, antibodies are shaped like a Y so that they can easily lock onto the target cell and enable other immune components to find and either destroy the antigen, or stop its replication mechanism.
2) Immune Cells
Like soldiers, airmen, and seamen on the front line, there are different types of immune cells to attack not-self from all angles. These cells are present and active in both non-specific and specific defense.
Lymphocytes are the most common cells of specific immunity, and they are separated into two classes: T cells and B cells. Neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils are white blood cells. Other kinds of immune cells are monocytes, macrophages, denritic cells, natural killer cells (NK), and the major histocompatiblity complex (MHC).
3) Humoral Immunity and Cell-Mediated Immunity
Humoral immunity is found in body tissue and the blood’s plasma, on the lookout for invaders, and creates an antibody in response to an antigen. Cell-mediated immunity issues the clarion call that activates other immune players.
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