Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Immune System: Explanation

“The immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. To function properly, an immune system must detect a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms , and distinguish them from the organism’s own healthy tissue.”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Yeah, thanks Wikipedia. I could never have made this post without the help of your simple and clear explanations. I’m really grateful.

No, seriously, Wikipedia was quite helpful.

Anyhow, what Wikipedia was trying to say was that the immune system is made out of many different cells and body parts that protects a person from nasty viruses and bacteria. If the immune system is working properly, it should kill the enemies and not the body itself, which is kind of obvious. 

Almost every living thing has a  immune system, even bacteria, who have only one cell inside of them. This is so that every living organism gets to be able to defend themselves from getting infected with a disease.The only exception might be viruses because they don’t need to protect themselves, since they are the one doing all the infecting. Still, scientists are still discussing whether a virus is a living thing, because the only thing a does is infect people, just like a programmed machine.

Anyway, I am only going to be talking about the human immune system. There are basically 3 parts to a immune system. Red blood cells, White Blood cells, and Platelets.

Red blood cells are useless to defending the body. They float around pointlessly, and it is very easy for the virus/bacteria to take control of them to make more viruses and bacteria. Red blood cells are only useful in the circulatory system. They help distribute oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body through the bloodstream, which is the only reason why they are worth saving.

White blood cells are the soldiers in the battle against the endless wave of virus/bacteria, who want to take control of your cells to make more of themselves so that they can attack other helpless creatures. They are the army that defends the body and the helpless red blood cells. And like any good army, there are different types of white blood cells, just like there are different types of soldiers.

  • The majority of the white blood cells are called neutrophils. Neutrophils are like guards protecting the wall of their kingdom. However, in this case, they are protecting the body. They will look for signs of infection in the body that means that viruses and bacteria can enter.  Neutrophils will help defend the body by eating the bacteria. But once they do eat a bacteria, this weird thing happens. They die. I’m not even kidding. They literally die. They can handle small amounts of bacteria but obviously, they won’t be able to hold back large amounts of viruses and bacteria, and you might be thinking that you are going to drop dead any second now, but there is no need to worry, for you still have your Lymphocytes.
  • The Lymphocytes are split into three different categories. These are the B cells, the T helper cells and the T killer cells. Remember, the T helper and T killer cells are very different. In fact, I really don’t know why they are grouped together. (Correction: I’ve just learned that they are grouped together because they are both born in the thymus, a body part in the chest area) Anyway,  the T helper cells will alert the B cells and the T killer cells. The B cells are strategists and the T killer cells are the warriors. Why do I say that? Well, the B cells shoot antibodies at the bacteria. What are antibodies? Antibodies are like little targets for the T killer cells.  Antibodies tell the T killer cells that they should eat the bacteria. The T killer cells then know which bacteria the B cells want them to kill, and then the T killer cells will eat them up. (without dying)

If you find this all a bit confusing, you might want to think of them all as just white blood cells. Some of them alert others, some of them mark the bacteria, and some eat the bacteria up. There are also other types of white blood cells, but I shall not talk about them, mostly due to space constraints, but also because I am far too lazy to talk about them. Mwahahahaha…

Yeah, that wasn’t funny.

Finally, there are platelets. Platelets are like your body’s natural plasters. When you get an injury, all sorts of bacteria and viruses can get in. Your body can hold them off for a while, but eventually they will run out of white blood cells. This is why platelets are important. They will fix your skin and stop you from bleeding. Otherwise, every small cut that you get would lead to your doom. Platelets block infection and gives the immune system time to regenerate.

And that’s basically all for now. Wow, this must be the longest explanation I have ever done. Anyway, the next time, we will be learning about the different diseases that the immune system can face and how it can be prevented.  So be sure to check back soon.

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