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What is the immune system?

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What is the immune system? Unlike most of the other body systems, the immune system is scattered throughout the body.The main defence against invaders such as bacteria and viruses are white blood cells called lymphocytes.

These blood cells are made and stored in the body's lymphatic system, which is a network of thin tubes running throughout the body.

It contains a watery liquid called lymph, which it drains from the tissues and returns to the blood. At intervals along the length of the lymph vessels are small lumps called lymph nodes. Lymphocytes are stored in these lymph nodes. Waves of lymphocytes are released when the body is injured, or when invaders are detected, and the lymphocytes swarm to the damaged area.

How are invading germs destroyed?

Special T-lymphocytes attach themselves to any invading organisms and destroy them. The T-lymphocytes release special substances that attract another type of white blood cell which consumes the invaders. B-lymphocytes are also stored in the lymph system.

They release a flow of substances called antibodies.These lock on to invading organisms. Each antibody attacks a particular type of invader, clumping them together so they are destroyed by the white blood cells. When a new infection is found, the B-lymphocytes make an antibody to attack it.

Can our bodies attack themselves?

Sometimes the immune system mistakes some harmless material for an invader and this can cause illness.

Grass pollen and dust are harmless materials that are often inhaled. In some people the body mounts a fierce attack on them. The immune system releases the substances normally designed to fight infection, and their effects can cause illnesses such as hay fever and asthma. Sometimes the immune system attacks normal tissue or organs, causing a condition called auto-immune disease. This can produce serious illness, but fortunately it is quite rare.

Why can the body reject a transplant organ?

All your body cells carry a 'label', or marker substance, on the outside of the cell. This marker is recognized by the immune system, which will not attack it. In some very serious illnesses, when a person's organ has failed completely, an organ from another individual may be transplanted.

The donated organs carry different marker substances, so the immune system treats them as invaders and will mount an attack on them called rejection. These attacks from the immune system can be reduced or prevented by the use of powerful drugs.

Lymph is a milky liquid drained from the tissues along a system of tubes called the lymphatics.The lymph vessels and the small swellings or lymph nodes, are where most of our immune response takes place.

The immune system

It is possible to harness the immune system to protect us from diseases before we ever encounter them. You could be inoculated with a very mild infection that would cause the immune system to produce antibodies without making you ill. A vaccine could contain enough dead germs, or parts of germs, that would trick the immune system into making antibodies.

Tags: body, cells, healing, bacteria, viruses

Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 22 December '11

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