A Quick Introduction To The Immune System
The immune system is the incredible defense mechanism within your body. It works in ways to prevent and protect against disease and infections caused by exterior components that want to and sometimes do invade your body. These components are known as toxins, bacteria, parasites, microbes and viruses, such as molluscum contagiosum.
You all know that your immune system exists and that it does its job 24 hours a day, even while you sleep. Most the time its work is not noticeable to you, as you are healthy and just carry on being you, doing all the usual daily activites.
It does however become noticeable when your immune system does not protect you or defend your body from the exterior harmful components, so making you ill. There are many levels of defense mechanisms that your immune system takes on. For example, if these exterior components happen to sneak through its outer barriers, your skin, or past the mucus in your nose, your immune system still has back ups to protect you from their harmful effects.
It is important for you to understand what makes up your immune system and how it works to protect you from illnesses and diseases everyday.By knowing this, you can help keep your immune system functioning at its optimum by helping it stay healthy and keeping it strong.
Some Of The Science
Your immune system is a complex system of many different cell types either living in a certain tissue or moving around throughout your body. Each cell type has its own specific role, which recognizes different threats or problems, performs its own functions, as well as, communicates information with other cells of your body.
Your immune system’s primary protection is your skin. This is an extremely important component of your immune system, as it creates a barrier between the outside, harmful components known collectively as germs, and your inner body. It is impermeable to most viruses and bacteria. Along with this, your skin also secretes certain antibacterial substances, which protect your skin by instantly killing the germs that land on your body.
Within your epidermis (the outer layer of skin) components such as melanocytes and Langerhans cells are found, warning your immune system on the first sign of threat.
There are openings into your body where your skin cannot protect you from exterior germs, such as your nose, ears and eyes. The mucus and tears found within these contain protective enzymes such as lysozyme, which are able to break down the cell walls of many bacteria. This mucus also captures any germs that have not been destroyed, which is then swallowed and eventually excreted. The wax in your ears and saliva from your mouth, also have antibacterial properties.
This primary defense mechanism of your immune system, makes it very difficult for any harmful exterior components to move into your internal body. If for some reason, due to sickness or overflow of toxins, these germs do happen to bypass your exterior protective barriers, your immune system has its secondary major defense components ready to keep you safe. These major protective components are:
– Bone marrow: containing stem cells that are able to develop into a variety of cell types. The cell types most important in the immediate response and defense to infection are the innate immune cells. These are known as the phagocytic cells, which consist of mast cells, monocytes, neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, macrophages and dendritic cells. These cells are responsible for removing the mess that has been made by the destruction of cells and tissue where there was an infection.
Within the bone marrow, adaptive immune cells are also produced. These cells are known as B-cells (which form antibodies that respond to harmful molecules and target it for removal by other immune cells) and T-cells (which fight invading, harmful molecules, directly) that have an immunological memory, meaning that they are able to respond to certain threats that have previously resided in your body.
NK cells, known as lymphocytes, are also derived from the bone marrow. These cells share features of both innate (immediate response) and adaptive (memory response) immune cells.
Bloodstream: is filled with immune cells (white blood cells) circulating throughout, keeping an eye for any problems that may occur. When these different cell types are either scarce or over abundant in your system, it means that your system is out of balance and there is a health problem.
Thymus: is a fairly small organ found in the top of your chest. This is where the protective T cells mature.
Spleen: is an organ that is found behind your stomach. It plays an important role in processing information from the cells in your blood stream. There are certain areas of your spleen that are concentrated with immune cells, which will activate and protect any germs or pathogens found within your blood.
Lymphatic system: is a network of vessels and tissues composed of an extra cellular fluid, known as lymph,and lymphoid organs, such as lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is a conduit for travel and communication between tissues and the bloodstream.
Immune cells are carried through the lymphatic system and converge in lymph nodes, which are found throughout the body. These immune cells understand the signals and information brought in from the body at the lymph nodes.
At this hub, the lymph node, adaptive and innate immune cells will recognize the pathogen, a possible threat, and then activate, replicate and move away from your lymph node to deal with the pathogen.
If you have swollen lymph nodes, it may be a sign that your immune system is responding to a possible threat.
Mucosal tissue: are the main areas whereby pathogens can move into your blood stream and tissue. For this reason, there are specialized immune areas, which are found within specific areas of your mucosal tissues. The most important ones are those of your respiratory tract and gut. Peyer’s patches are found in the mucosal tissue of your small intestine where the immune cells can receive information and guard your gastrointestinal tract. Your gastrointestinal tract is the most important barrier between your inner and outer world, even more so than your skin.
Your immune system can send out signal molecules, which transport or send messages to your immune cells deep within your tissue or within your bloodstream, if it is under threat. These messengers (cytokines) that are soluble, call your immune cells to the damaged area. Overflowing this infected area with activated cells. They often bring upon an inflammatory response to the infected area, protecting it and secluding it from the exterior so that it can heal.
This is when we notice our immune system and how it is protecting us. Although most the time we may not like the side effects, such as inflammation, pus and a runny nose, it is our body defending us and ridding us from a small but harmful pathogen and intruder, so it doesn’t lead to more serious problems.
In other words, the molluscum virus manages to hide itself from the body’s immune system.
This interference inhibits the body’s natural inflammatory and immune response to the infection.
The body is prevented from recognising a virus is present, and so does nothing to fight it until the body, eventually, realises a virus is present and starts to produce antibodies to fight it off.
The ability of viruses like molluscum contagiosum to hide from the immune response is the main reason why it may take from several months to years for the body to finally recognise the presence of the virus and for the infection to resolve.
Be thankful to your immune system and look after it, because everyday it is working to ward off the thousands of germs you inhale, contagious viruses and diseases, without you even taking notice of the importance of its function.