An Attack on Self Tissues
The Body's First Line of Defense
The immune system is a complex of organs--highly specialized cells and even a circulatory system separate from blood vessels--all of which work together to clear infection from the body.
The organs of the immune system, positioned throughout the body, are called lymphoid organs. The word "lymph" in Greek means a pure, clear stream--an appropriate description considering its appearance and purpose.
Pockets of lymphoid tissue are in many other locations throughout the body, such as the bone marrow and thymus. Tonsils, adenoids, Peyer's patches, and the appendix are also lymphoid tissues.
Both immune cells and foreign molecules enter the lymph nodes via blood vessels or lymphatic vessels. All immune cells exit the lymphatic system and eventually return to the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, lymphocytes are transported to tissues throughout the body, where they act as sentries on the lookout for foreign antigens.
How the Immune System
The two major classes of lymphocytes are B cells, which grow to maturity in the bone marrow, and T cells, which mature in the thymus, high in the chest behind the breastbone.
Certain T cells, which also patrol the blood and lymph for foreign invaders, can do more than mark the antigens; they attack and destroy diseased cells they recognize as foreign. T lymphocytes are responsible for cell-mediated immunity (or cellular immunity). T cells also orchestrate, regulate and coordinate the overall immune response. T cells depend on unique cell surface molecules called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) to help them recognize antigen fragments.
However, in contrast to cars, the variety of antibodies is very large. Different antibodies are destined for different purposes. Some coat the foreign invaders to make them attractive to the circulating scavenger cells, phagocytes, that will engulf an unwelcome microbe.
When some antibodies combine with antigens, they activate a cascade of nine proteins, known as complement, that have been circulating in inactive form in the blood. Complement forms a partnership with antibodies, once they have reacted with antigen, to help destroy foreign invaders and remove them from the body. Still other types of antibodies block viruses from entering cells.
Immune system process
After it engulfs and processes an antigen, the macrophage displays the antigen fragments combined with a Class II MHC protein on the macrophage cell surface. The antigen-protein combination attracts a helper T cell, and promotes its activation.
Activation of cytotoxic T
After a macrophage engulfs and processes an antigen, the macrophage displays the antigen fragments combined with a Class I MHC protein on the macrophage cell surface. A receptor on a circulating, resting cytotoxic T cell recognizes the antigen-protein complex and binds to it. The binding process and a helper T cell activate the cytotoxic T cell so that it can attack and destroy the diseased cell.
Activation of B cells to make
A B cell uses one of its receptors to bind to its matching antigen, which the B cell engulfs and processes. The B cell then displays a piece of the antigen, bound to a Class II MHC protein, on the cell surface. This whole complex then binds to an activated helper T cell. This binding process stimulates the transformation of the B cell into an antibody-secreting plasma cell.
basics of the immune system
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