Immune System - Protect the Homefront

Diseases are everywhere. You may have heard about tuberculosis, SARS, AIDS, malaria, or something as simple as the flu. All of those diseases can kill you. They would definitely kill you if you did not have an immune system. Your immune system is your microscopic armor that protects the cells of your body from bacteria, viruses, and poisons you might encounter every day. While other systems have major organs you can dissect and remove from the body, your immune system is relatively invisible and made of many different types of immune cells.

What Does This System Do?

The immune system is there to keep you alive and healthy. The system can attack foreign invaders or it can go after cells created within your body that could endanger your life. Sometimes cancer cells are the targets of our immune system. As pathogens attack your body, the immune system begins a series of immunological defenses.

You know when your immune system is at work because of the symptoms you might have. Fever, swelling, and a runny nose are all examples of symptoms during an immunological response. Your immune system can respond many ways to a problem. There would be one response to a knife wound, a separate response to hay fever and pollen, and a specific response to catching a cold.

Interacting with Other Systems

The immune system is like a small police force that constantly patrols every organ and tissue in your body. It works closely with the circulatory system for transportation needs and the lymphatic system for production of lymphocytes.

It may surprise you, but one of the most important parts of the immune system is the entire integumentary system (your skin). Your skin is usually the first defense your body has against disease. It just makes sense. There is far more chance you will get dangerous bacteria or viruses on your skin and hands than breathe those microorganisms in your lungs. You have cells and compounds on your skin that help to kill any bacteria that appear. Always remember to wash your hands; most of the microorganisms that get you sick are picked up when you touch things.

Problems with the System

We wanted to talk a little about diseases and failures of the immune system. AIDS is one of the most well known diseases that can hurt the immune system. AIDS is a disease where specific immune cells such as helper-T and inducer-T cells are killed. Without those cells, the immune system cannot work properly and even minor diseases can kill the organism.

There are also genetic problems with immune systems. Something as simple as an allergic reaction happens because an individual cannot properly tolerate certain allergens. Inflammation and hay fever occur. Normal individuals can destroy those allergens, but people who are "allergic" cannot defend themselves. You could have allergies to animals, food, or plants. Some allergic reactions are so extreme they can kill.
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