The immune system is the body’s own defense system to help keep germs and bacteria out – or fight them if they do manage to get in! – so that we remain healthy.
There are various cells and organs that all function together to keep us healthy and protected. One of the cells that play an extremely important role in the proper functioning of the immune system is called white blood cells.
White blood cells can be broken up into two major categories:
– Phagocytes and
But, don’t let their names scare you!
Phagocytes are simply the cells that will engulf any pathogen invaders and devour them. The lymphocytes, on the other hand, remember these invaders so that they can mount an attack to destroy them if ever they are seen in the body again.
Let’s look a little closer at these lymphocytes. Lymphocytes can be further classified as either B-lymphocytes or T-lymphocytes and each type has a super important job. Think about an army. There are officers who do the surveillance and intelligence work and track the invaders. That’s the B-lymphocytes.
B-lymphocytes identify the pathogen/ invader/ foreign substance – which would now be called an antigen – and form antibodies. These antibodies attach to the antigens to make them easily recognizable. But, these antibodies that are formed usually also stay in the body in case the same antigen enters again. The immune response will be faster!
Now, an army also has soldiers on the field, those who will go out for direct combat with the enemy. That’s the T-lymphocytes!
T-lymphocytes lock into those antigens (that have been made easily identifiable by the antibodies of the B-cells!) and destroy them. T-cells can also help signal other cells, like the phagocytes, to come and also assist in destroying the invader.
There are three types of immunity we all possess:
a. Natural Immunity (also called Innate Immunity) This is general protection that every person is born with.
b. Active Immunity (also called Adaptive Immunity) This develops throughout our life when we are exposed to diseases or immunized against them.
c. Passive Immunity This is a short-lived form of immunity received from another source; for example, from a mother to her baby via breastmilk.
Did you find this article interesting? Then, stay tuned for Part 2: How Can I Support My Immune System?