Immune Response

The immune response is how an organism responds after being infected with a pathogen. A pathogen can be bacteria, viruses, or toxins. The immune response consists of both innate and adaptive immune responses.

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    On pathogens, proteins live on the surface, known as antigens. There are specific antigens for each type of pathogen. Lymphocytes, a variety of white blood cells, can differentiate between whether or not a cell is an antigen or a cell from the body. Once they can differentiate, they produce antibodies to help destroy the antigens.

    What does the innate immune response do?

    The innate immune response, aka non-specific immune response, defends the body against non-specific pathogens and is considered the first line of defence. Parts of the body such as skin and mucus form the innate immune response by keeping out pathogens. The mucus in our nose traps the pathogens from getting inside our bodies, and they also use their form of bacteria to destroy the stuck pathogens. In addition, various other cells are involved in the innate immune response as they carry out 'cell eating' – phagocytosis. These additional cells include neutrophils, macrophages, and monocytes.

    What do the cells in the innate immune response do?

    The cells in the innate immune response are white blood cells that include neutrophils, macrophages, and monocytes.

    • Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell and are the first to fight back against a pathogen. They can do this by releasing enzymes that digest and kill pathogens.
    • Macrophages are another type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow. These macrophages play a role in inflammation by releasing cytokines small proteins that help with inflammation and act as messengers between other cells.
    • Monocytes are another type of white blood cell and can turn into macrophages. They also play a role in the adaptive immune system.

    Despite their many differences, they are all able to perform phagocytosis

    What does the adaptive immune response do?

    While the innate immune system remains the same from birth, the adaptive immune system can learn over time. The adaptive immune response works to fight off pathogens and is especially effective against those it has destroyed before. Each time it encounters a pathogen, it will remember it in its memory, and it will be faster to defeat each time it sees it.

    An example of an adaptive immune response is chickenpox. If someone gets sick with chickenpox regardless of age, they will never contract it again after fighting it off the first time.

    There are only two types of cells in the adaptive immune response, T and B cells. T and B cells come from stem cells located in the bone marrow, and they are both classified as lymphocytes, which means they are the primary type of cell found in the lymph.

    Immune Response, T cell and B cell transformation, StudySmarterFig. 1 - T cells split up into other T cells or B cells after being attacked by antigens

    Although it is effective, it is slower to respond than the innate immune response due to it needing to identify the antigen before responding. This immune response splits into two types – humoral and cellular immunity. The adaptive immune response also requires fewer cells than the innate immune response.

    What is humoral immunity?

    Humoral immunity, or antibody-mediated immunity, is mediated by B cells. B cells move through the lymphatic system, where they encounter an antigen. Suppose the antigen matches the specific antibody on their cell surface, a membrane-bound antibody. In that case, they either split into a memory B cell, or an effector B cell occurs when plasma cells produce antibodies and allow them to move throughout the body.

    Humoral immunity splits into both primary and secondary immune responses.

    What are primary and secondary immune responses?

    Primary immune responses occur when the body encounters a pathogen for the first time. These immune responses use the naive B and T cells. As the B and T cells have not transformed into their effector and memory cells, they are slow to respond to the threat to the point where it takes several days to react.

    In contrast, the secondary immune response uses the memory forms of the B and T cells. Therefore, they respond in about half the time the primary response takes. They also produce higher levels of antibodies compared to the primary immune response.

    This quicker response is why someone can never be infected with chickenpox again for the rest of their life.

    Have you noticed that your armpits are sometimes swollen when you are ill? This is because your armpits are rich in lymph nodes, which contain lymphocytes. Swelling of the lymph nodes indicates high lymphocyte activity.

    What is cellular immunity?

    Cellular immunity involves the activation of lymphocytes upon encountering a 'non-self' material and is mediated by T cells. T cells are created in the bone marrow but travel to the thymus, a small organ located in the chest to get transformed into T cells. In the thymus, they develop T cell receptors where they will get a T cell receptor named CD4 or CD8. The different receptors allow the cells to perform different tasks.

    Therefore, there are three types of T cells. Their jobs depend on what T cell receptor they receive. The Helper T cells have CD4 and help B cells and other cells found in the immune response. Cytotoxic T cells have CD8 and destroy pathogens plus infected self cells.

    T regulatory cells have both CD4 and CD25, and its job is to identify what cells belong to the body, so they will not be attacked.

    The receptors also need to perform recombination of genes that express these receptors. It is called rearrangement, and it allows for a large amount of diversity in the genes. Still, occasionally a mistake happens, and the gene is rearranged into an identical gene found in a person. This mistake leads to the body attacking itself. To prevent this response, T cells are tested twice by the body. The first test is to make sure they can tell the difference between their body's proteins and the proteins of a pathogen. The second test is to see how it will bind. If it attaches to something that is not an antigen or itself, it will be eliminated.

    How do vaccines help the immune response?

    Vaccines help the immune response by pretending to be a pathogen. This makes the immune system believe that it is sick and needs to produce antibodies. Now that the immune system remembers how to fight off this pathogen, it can fight it off faster if the body ever actually becomes infected. The figure below shows a quick diagram of how it works.

    Cells vaccine immune response steps StudySmarterFig. 2 - Vaccination immune response steps

    Immune Response - Key takeaways

    • The immune response is how an organism responds after being infected with a pathogen aka a form of bacteria, virus, or toxin.

    • Pathogens have proteins on their surface called antigens.

    • Antibodies are produced by the body and used to destroy pathogens.

    • There are innate and adaptive immune responses. Innate responses are nonspecific and what an organism was born with. Adaptive responses can grow as the organism comes in contact with pathogens and has two types of immunity, humoral and cellular.

    • Humoral immunity consists of B cells that either produce antibodies or remember previous pathogen attacks. Cellular immunity is when cells not belonging to the body are identified and are then destroyed by T cells.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Immune Response

    What is the process of immune response?

    During an immune response, cells in the innate immune system notice a pathogen. Cytokines are then released, the complement system is activated, and then the innate immune system calls for inflammatory responses.

    What are the types of immune responses?

    The types of immune systems are innate, adaptive, primary, and secondary immune responses.

    Which part of the adaptive immune response involves B cells?

    Producing antibodies and remembering prior pathogens

    What are the advantages of a cell-mediated immune response?

    The immunity is through cells and not antibodies. Also, the cells are able to cooperate to help take down the pathogens.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    The two types of immune responses include innate and active immune responses.

    What cells does the innate immune response have?

    What type of cell makes up most of the innate immune response cells?


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