Monday, 28 April 2014

Antibodies - Soldiers of your Immune System.

The fundamentals of scientific research lie in our efforts to promote life. Whether it is ridding the environment of pollutants, genetically modifying rice, wheat and tomatoes to feed the world till eternity or developing the latest technology, the focus remains on the healthy man.

A simple event like a wave of Saharan dust in the air elevates the number of people seeking health care advice. A drop in temperatures cripples sufferers of bone disease as does a rise in temperature for others. Even our diet has varying effects on individuals and it’s all to do with our genetic makeup. As different as we all are, one common event that everyone experiences during their lifetime is being unwell. Unless you’re the exception you would have experienced the headache, aches, fever, fatigue, shivers to name but a few usually accompanying an underlining illness.  These symptoms accompanying disease are as a result of events within our Immune system and from the interaction of Antibodies and antigens.

Antibodies are basically Y-shaped proteins circulating in our blood stream ready to attack and foreign substances known as antigens and usually in the form of viruses or bacteria within the body. There are five types of antibodies, namely: IgG, IgA, IgM, IgE and IgD.

 which forms about 15% of the Immunoglobulin’s and it protects the body against infection in the mucosal areas such as respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract. The gut of babies is protected through breastfeeding when mothers pass on their IgA to the baby. People who suffer from diseases of the GI / respiratory tract will usually have increased levels of IgA in their blood. There are other conditions where these levels may be decreased.

 is most commonly associated with allergies and allergic diseases and in some cases with parasitic infections. It is IgE usually routinely measured as part of an allergy – testing panel. Unlike IgA, IgE only forms a minute percentage (about 0.003%) of the total Immunoglobulin family. The intensity of one’s allergic reaction is variable and is dependent on factors such as the mediators released during the body’s defence against the reaction and the number of allergens.

 makes up the bulk of the Immunoglobulin mass in the blood. They contain the most antibacterial, antiviral and antitoxin antibodies. It is also crucial in the protection of new-borns from infections as it is the only Immunoglobulin with the ability to cross the placenta.  Vaccines are based on the ability of IgG’s to recognise and retain a reserve of antibodies that can be quickly reproduced when exposed to the same antigen (weaker in the vaccine) it recognised in the vaccine.

 is responsible for the body’s first line of defence and it comprises about 10% of the total Immunoglobulin mass. It is also the largest in terms of physical structure and cannot cross the placenta. It can however be produced by a foetus which could be an indication of an infection during pregnancy. IgM holds the fort in the short term until IgG production begins.

 account for about 1% of the total immunoglobulin mass and it is usually expressed alongside IgM. Not much is known about this antibody.

Together, these antibodies work within the immune system to protect the body against disease and like soldiers on the battle field, the fight may be fierce with possible collateral damage but the victory at the end makes it all OK. 

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