Every aspect of the immune system plays a unique and integral role in protecting the body against germs and infections. Our immune system is a collection of cells, tissues, and organs. As these functions work together, they not only combat disease but also ensure the overall well-being of your health. The body is an adequate environment for pathogens like viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi are survive. The immune system fights towards eliminating access to such microbes and prevents them from growing and causing health issues.
While a majority of people understand the primary function of an immune system, there remain many facts that they might not be aware of yet. These are the most interesting and lesser-known facts about the immune system.
The Importance of Vaccines
Vaccines work by prompting the immune system to generate antibodies against any foreign invader without infecting you with a disease. Consecutively, when you encounter the same infection in the future, your body will be prepared to combat it.
Vaccinations educate your immune system by using a unique component of that particular pathogen; therefore, when the body will be exposed to that pathogen in the future, you will have minimum to nil symptoms.
The immune system is similar to a military where there are various branches, and each of them serves a dedicated function in order to protect the body. White blood cells are the first line of defense. They are first to identify pathogens and combat infection.
Lymphocytes, specific white blood cells function to enable the body to remember the microbes in case the body encounters in the future and fights them off faster. Bone marrow is an area where while blood cells are formed, lymph nodes form and store infection-fighting cells in the body, and lastly, there is spleen that controls the blood quantity in the body and removes the old or damaged cells.
It is not pleasant to think about, but our body is home to thousands of microbes, and they are vital to maintaining good health. There are good bacteria that provide our body with essential nutrients it requires and offers protection against the harmful bacteria and infection. Your body needs a balance because when the number of good bacteria decreases, harmful bacteria ten to take more and creates illnesses.
The good bacteria may impact the sensitivity of the immune system to antigens, and might also its ability to prevent autoimmune diseases. The bacteria also provide antibodies and trigger the function of intestinal proteins that allows the immune system to repair internal injuries.
According to research, positive emotions can make your immune system function more efficiently. Whether or not it is a direct effect is still unknown. However, the more positive an individual is, the more likely they eat healthily and are less stressed, which has a healthy impact on the immune system.
In a recent study, around 350 adults volunteered to be exposed to a cold virus, which they were compensated for substantially. The positive attitude in adults, such as feelings pleased and energized, was assessed for about two weeks before exposure to the cold. People who reported the most positive emotions were less probable to get infected with the common cold.
The ability to combat illnesses depends on various factors. And the way you react to stressful situations holds a significant impact on your immune system. If you are often stressed, then you will continuously find yourself dealing with hormonal battles, leading to some severe health issues like diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension, and others.
Your immune system and brain are always in communication, and this balance can be affected by both physical and emotional stress. Moreover, stress can result in an increased level of cortisol, which is a steroid hormone that is critical for overall body functioning. However, excess of this hormone can lead to various health issues and can impact immunity.
The movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” released in 1976, shows a person who suffers from the deficient immune system, and he lives his life in an entirely sterile environment because his immune system is unable to combat the infection.
While the story was fictional, the diseases severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) or Bubble Boy Disease is real. It occurs in one in 100,000 people. Bone marrow transplant from the matching sibling donor has been the only treatment available for such people. However, in recent years, the potential of gene therapy has also proved quite helpful.
The germ theory of disease, which states that microorganisms are responsible for some illnesses gained relevant in the 19th century. Before the germ theory, humorism or humoralism was a concept that dominated the minds of western medical for up to 2,000 years.
This discredited theory states that the human body is formed of four aqueous humors or substances – blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. A deficiency or surplus in any of these can result in illnesses or disabilities. Such disease treatments are known as bloodletting, which primarily focused on trying to restore the balance of fluid in the body.
Sometimes Symptoms Are the Results of Immune System Doing a Good Job
There is a popular notion that viruses, bacteria, and fungi are the causes of disease symptoms that is not technically correct. Often disease symptoms occur because your immune system is fighting off the microorganisms. For instance, let’s take the common cold. Your immune system immediately gets to work when rhinovirus gets in the epithelial cells. These are cells that line the cavities in the body and present in your upper respiratory tract.
Histamines, immune system chemicals dilate the blood vessels and boos their permeability, enabling white blood cells and proteins to contact the infected epithelial tissues. However, the inflammation you experience in the blood vessel of your nasal cavity results in nasal congestion. Furthermore, you may experience a runny nose because of the increased leakage of fluid from the permeable capillaries that are combined with a mucus production caused by histamines.
The very first vaccine was developed in the 18th century; however, people comprehended its importance of immunity way before it. During 430 B.C., Athens was infected with devastating disease. They identified that people who previously survived smallpox were not affected by the plague the second time.
These people were called to attend to the ones who have contracted smallpox. In the 10th century, healers in China began blowing the scab of dried smallpox into the nostrils of healthy patients, who eventually contracted a mild disease forms and the patients who manage to recover became immune to smallpox. This practice was reckoned as inoculation or variolation, became quite popular in New England and Europe in the 1700s.
By the 1700s, variolation had emerged as a common practice in western society. The technique, at times, did kill patients; however, the fatality rate with regards to this practice was ten times lower as compared to full-blown smallpox. It was found in the journal labeled by Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings in 2005. As the times passed, tales began to spread that dairymaids could not contract smallpox if they had previously suffered from cowpox.
Furthermore, cowpox’s fatality rate was lower compared to the variolation. Using this information as they base English Physician Edward Jenner commence hypothesize that states that cowpox provides protection against smallpox. He further illustrated that cowpox could be transmitted between patients safely as a way to protect themselves from contracting smallpox.
A healthy immune system is crucial to get rid of influenza, cold, and various other illnesses. However, numerous research in the past decades depicts that sleep deprivation impacts the disease-fighting capabilities of the immune system by reducing the proliferation of T-cells. In fact, a single night of inadequate sleep can reduce the immune system by decreasing the number of natural killer cells.
In a study published in 2012 revealed that vaccines might be less effective for individuals who get less than six hours of sleep in the night as opposed to people who get a full night of rest.
Women Are More Affected by Autoimmune Diseases Than Men
An autoimmune disease is a disorder in which the body’s natural defenses turn hyperactive, attacking healthy tissues, treating them as foreign bodies. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and celiac disease are some examples of this disease.
However, women are most affected by the disease as opposed to men. An article published in the American Journal of Pathology suggested that five to eight percent of the US population have an autoimmune disease. 78% of these people are women.
For many decades, scientists have understood that sunlight exposure, especially ultraviolet radiation, can influence the response of the immune systems to viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. In order to suppress the immune system of a human, it takes UVR doses that merely account for 30 to 50% of what’s is necessary to cause minor sunburn.
Sunlight, on the other hand, causes the body to generate vitamin D. According to the recent study published in Nature Immunology, T-cells don’t get mobilized if they identify a small amount of vitamin D in the bloodstream. Moreover, more research suggests that the presence of vitamin D might stimulate the development of anti-microbial peptides in the skin. These are essential components that help your body protect against new infections.
The Ancient Immune System from a Starfish Point of View
There are two primary and vital aspects of our immune system – adaptive immunity and innate immunity. The innate immune system includes proteins and cells that are always active to combat microorganisms as soon as they detect an infection. The adaptive immune system, on the other hand, gets called to act when the pathogens circumvent the innate defenders.
Invertebrates typically lack the adaptive immunity that is possessed by vertebrates. However, in the 19th century Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian biologist, discovered the presence of the innate immune system in invertebrates. He pierced a starfish larva using a rose thorn. The very next day, he found tons of tiny cells try to cover the thorn. Since its evolution somewhat 5000 years ago, starfish have remained virtually unchanged. This was long before vertebrates where discover, meaning the innate immune system has strong ancient roots.
The immune system works round the clock to fight off microbes and protect you from diseases. It is natural for people to accept that the main soldier, the white blood cells, will account for a majority of the blood.
However, the reality is not the same. Blood cells cover only one percent of the cells in blood worth five liters in a healthy adult’s body. But there are adequate white blood cells to protect you from infection. In every microliter of blood, there are between 5,000 and 10,000 white blood cells.
Cleaning as well as disinfecting your surroundings might seem like an effective way to infection. However, this is a case where too much good can turn into a bad thing. When you clean your environment too much, you tend to minimize the foreign pathogens that you reduce the development of the immune system.
It is a popular notion in the case of young children which they are not at all exposed to harmful microbes. Subsequently, their bodies fail to develop adequate antibodies to combat the harmful microbes. If someone has a cold, keep your hands clean around them and avoid getting in direct contact, but don’t obsess for cleaning. In your quest to prevent foreign pathogens, you don’t want to minimize the contact with good bacteria present in the environment.
When you experience an allergic reaction, it is your immune system reacting to harmless allergens that the system detects it as a threat. From the runny nose to fainting and breaking out in hives, there are various symptoms of an allergic reaction. These are basically the result of misguided attacks from the body.
Studies reveal that allergies may be the sign of a robust immune system that protects your body against the toxins of the environment. As mentioned above, your immune system reacts differently to fight off various pathogens.
Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch are the two scientists who discovered the primary functions of the immune system. You would think that both scientists work together and view their works as complementary, but that in reality, they were both rivals. Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist, was well-reckoned for his experiments illustrating the mechanisms of vaccines through weakened microbes.
Koch, on the other hand, was a German physician who establishes four conditions in which pathogenic bacteria can infect the hosts and further used them to determine the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium that was responsible for tuberculosis. While both the scientists helped establish the germ disease theory, the feud between them was exasperated by nationalism, criticism of each other’s work, language barrier, and other factors.
Yes, the white blood cells take the award again. These cells are segmented into two types – lymphocytes that develop antigens for particular pathogens and remove them out of the body and phagocytes that ingest hazardous bacteria.
Primarily, white blood cells are produced in bone marrow, but they are also present in lymph nodes, thymus, and spleen. Inside the lymph nodes that are present in your entire body but noticeable in the throat, armpit, and groin, the white blood cells transfer through the tubules that appear like a vein to remove out the foreign invaders.
The spleen is a vital organ that resides between the stomach and diaphragm. While you can survive without the spleen, it is essential for your immune system’s function. According to a reckoned doctor Adriana Medina whose expertise lies in hematology and oncology, the spleen basically considered as a large lymph node that generates new white blood cells and removes the old and damaged blood cells from the body.
Moreover, the spleen is a place in which immune cells congregate. Since the immune cells are spread throughout your body, eventually, these cells would need to communicate with one another. So the communication occurs in the spleen as well as lymph nodes.
Even though the immune cells gather up in the lymph nodes, immune cells are present in each tissue where it circulates, continuously roving for an attack sign. These cells are also found in the blood.
The reason they are so widespread is that there are a thousand kinds of pathogens that infect the human body. In order to eliminate different types of threats, there are just as many, if not more, immune cells.
Amiability Can be Associated with Your Immune System
From the perspective of evolution, the amiability of humans might have less to do with their brand and more associated with the immune system’s exposure to pathogens. At the University of Virginia School of Medicine, researchers have come up with a theory that interferon-gamma (IG), a component that assists the immune system combat invaders, was associated with social behavior, which is one of the primary ways one gets in contact with pathogens.
When tested the theory in mice, the researchers found that IG acted as a brake to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, primarily putting halting aberrant hyperactivity that results in adverse changes in your social behavior. Furthermore, when they blocked the IG molecule, the prefrontal cortex of mice became quite hyperactive, leading to less sociability. When the function was restored, the mice’s brains began to function normally, so did their social behavior.
The appendix has a bad reputation for the vestigial organ that does not do anything but creates a need for immediate surgery. However, the appendix might assist in keeping your gut in good shape.
According to Gabrielle Belz, a reckoned professor of molecular immunology at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, reveals that the appendix abodes symbiotic bacteria that are vital for the overall health of your gut especially post-infection when the good microbes have been washed off. Innate lymphoid cells, specialized immune cells present in the appendix, may assist in the generation of healthy bacteria and stimulate the recovery process of the gut.
Hyperactive pediatric tumors are complex to treat because of the toxicity associated with chemotherapy. However, some scientists are working with developing effective treatments that do not have harmful side effects. Researchers at Standford worked on a study around a rather new molecule called CD47, a protein expressed on the cell’s surface and how the molecule interacts with the macrophages, white blood cells that eliminate the abnormal cells. The lead study author and assistant professor of neurosurgery at the university said that the macrophages were considered similar to the Pac-Man.
CD47 transfers the macrophages a “do not harm me” signals, and the cancer cells trick the immune system into not destroy them by producing a high amount of CD47. When the researchers blocked the messages on the cancer cells, the macrophages identified the cancer cells and killed them without any toxic side effects. This treatment successful shrank five of the most common pediatric tumors without the harmful implications of chemotherapy.
Over the past few years, essential research in the immunology landscape has been centered on developing effective cancer cure through immunotherapy. The treatment prepares the healthy cells of the patient to attack the cancer cells.
This technique could be the top of the iceberg and can be used to treat many severe health conditions. It is only a matter of gaining a better understanding of what immunotherapy and cancer are depicting. This can provide the research a direction, and they can manipulate the responses and obtain better outcomes for not just cancer but other diseases as well.
In Type 1 diabetes, the body tends to attack its own pancreatic cells, disrupting its capability to produce insulin against the glucose. A researcher at MIT in 2016 collaborated with a Children’s hospital in Boston and designed a new material that enabled them to encapsulate and transplant healthy pancreatic islet cells into diabetic mice without impacting the immune response.
Developed using seaweed, the substance is gentle enough to protect the body from reacting to it and porous to enable the islet cells to be positioned in the mice’s abdomen where they restore the pancreatic abilities. This experiment has a strong potential to provide Type1 diabetes people with a new and healthy pancreas that is shielded from the immune system. This would ensure that their blood sugar level stays in check without having to rely on medications.
The way your immune system functions can be impacted by what you eat. For instance, when you suffer from a food allergy, there is a presence of a lot of undesirable immune responses to particular nutrients. However, there are specific growing indications that food also has substances that can have a positive impact on the functioning of your immune system.
The project, known as IMMUNO-ARRAY, focused on determining which substances have better have positive effects. Proper nutrition is vital to building a robust immune system that can effectively protect you against various health disorders. An adequate amount of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and more are some nutrients essential for your immune system.
More than those fluttery butterflies feeling, love can actually be quite useful for your immune system. And when that happens, it directly boosts your physical as well as mental health. It is no coincidence that caring and loving relationships make you feel better, mentally and physically.
Loving experiences have a positive impact on the microbiome and immune system in multiple ways. When you are aware that you are not alone, it can significantly reduce the stress level and help you be more relaxed. Such a state of mind supports the microbiome by making it difficult for bacteria to enter your gut.
In order to understand the connection between laughter and the immune system, you must be aware of the lymphatic system. It is basically the backbone of the immune system that continually collects waste from all parts of the body deposited in the tissues through blood capillaries. The system then cleans the fluid and transfers it back into the circulating blood at your neck.
Contrary to our circulatory system that has a heart that pumps the blood in an ongoing circle throughout the body, the Lymphatic system is a simple transport system devoid of the pump. Studies suggest that laughter facilitates diaphragmatic breathing, which is essential to create intense pressure inside the thoracic duct. During such time, the lymphatic fluid moves to the area with lesser pressure, transferring the lymph through the vessels and increasing the flow and speed.
Regular physical activity helps in reducing the chances of contracting heart diseases. Furthermore, it also helps in keeping your bones strong and healthy. According to studies, exercises may help in flushing out the bacteria via airways and lungs. Such actions reduce the chance of dealing with illnesses.
Furthermore, exercises stimulate changes in white blood cells and antibodies and allow them to circulate more rapidly. This activity enables them to detect the pathogens earlier and fight it off quickly.
A Majority of the Immune System is Located in the Gut
Your immune system is present mainly within the lymphatic system. It is a meshy network of vessels as well as glands found throughout your body. There are also congregates in and around the gut. The food passes through the digestive system that carries microbes, toxins, and allergens into your body, so it makes sense that for the immune system to be present in the gut.
Inside the stomach, the immune system regularly works to detect those components and organisms that enter your body so that it can properly absorb the nutrients. If you continuously consume food that your immune system identifies as harmful, you risk throwing it out of balance and becoming more prone to illnesses.
When your immune system gets in contact with a foreign invader, the first reactor is the cells and biological compounds associated with the inflammation process. It is a fast and somewhat messy signal that destroys many things in its way.
While inflammation is somewhat life-saving, when it becomes chronic, it can damage the tissues and make it easier for you to contract illness of disease. A healthy immune system response includes quick inflammation that also resolves quite quickly.
Vitamin D works beyond strengthening your bone; it plays many essential roles in the body. One of the primary functions associated with vitamin D is that it helps balance immunity. Therefore, it is crucial to take the necessary amount of vitamin D daily to maintain an adequate level. If you often get sick, then your vitamin D level might be lower, and it is worth getting it checked.
The primary function of the immune system to keep harmful germs out of the body by destroying them. Your immune system is formed of various networks of cells and organs that work in unison to protect you from illness.
Evidently, a healthy immune system is imperative for your survival. You must make the right efforts to ensure that you have a robust immune system. Furthermore, being well aware of its functioning can help you stay knowledgeable. Above were some important and interesting facts about the immune system that will help you understand your health and well-being a little better.