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The Specific Immune System

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Scott Campbell The Specific Immune System The immune system has evolved a complex network of checks and balances that can be categorised as innate and learned immunity. Everyone is born with innate (natural) immunity. The components of the immune system involved in natural immunity are macrophages, neutrophils (a large white blood cell (leukocyte) that ingests antigens and other substances), and complement (a group of proteins that helps to attack antigens). (React similarly to all foreign substances, and the recognition of antigens does not vary from person to person). As its name indicates, learned immunity is acquired. At birth, a person's immune system hasn't encountered the outside world or started to develop its memory files. The immune system learns to respond to every new antigen encountered. Learned immunity is, therefore, specific to the antigens encountered during a person's lifetime. The immune system (See Biological Science book pages 534-535) carries a record/memory of every antigen a person encounters, whether through the lungs (by breathing), the intestine (by eating), or the skin. This is possible because lymphocytes are long-lived. When lymphocytes encounter an antigen for the second time, they mount a quick, vigorous, specific response to that antigen. ...read more.


How the immune system does this depends on whether the invaders are encapsulated (have a thick capsule around them) or are non-encapsulated. Invaders that gain access to the inside of cells (intracellular organisms) and remain viable (alive) and functional are fought in a different way altogether. Before vaccines (See Biological Science book pages 533-539) were invented many people died of illnesses that today are prevented. Some examples of these illnesses are whooping cough, measles, and polio. Those same germs exist today, but vaccines now protect people. There are a series of steps that your body goes through in fighting off a vaccine-preventable disease: First: A vaccine is given by a shot or liquid by mouth. An alternative needle-free way is the use of inhalation by aerosol and powder. Most vaccines contain a weakened or dead disease germ or part of a disease germ. Other vaccines use inactivated toxins. Some of the bacteria that cause disease do so by producing toxins that invade the bloodstream. Next: The body makes antibodies against the weakened or dead germs in the vaccine. Then: These antibodies can fight the real disease germs -- which can be lurking all around -- if they invade the child's body. ...read more.


For example, one binding site may recognise a tumour cell, and the other site may recognise a cell or toxin that can be recruited to kill the tumour cell. These bispecific MAbs can also be produced bio-chemically by using chemicals to join individual proteins or genetically by linking the genes for the different MAbs. In cancer therapeutics, a lot of interest is being focused on designing MAbs specific not only for molecules on tumour cells but also for molecules produced on actively growing blood vessels. Solid tumours require a constant supply of blood to survive. One way they ensure this supply is by encouraging the growth of new blood vessels that produce unique growth-related molecules. Normal blood vessels do not grow actively and do not produce this molecule. By injecting a patient with the new type of MAb, scientists hope to destroy only the blood vessels associated with a tumour, depriving it of nutrients and eventually killing it. In the near future, modern advances in the design and production of MAbs will result in the creation of more efficient versions of these special antibodies. At that point, practitioners will be able to choose from a substantial collection of clinically effective MAbs that they can use to treat their patients. ...read more.

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