An immune system is a collection of mechanisms within an organism that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. The immune systems of humans consist of many types of proteins, cells, organs, and tissues, which interact in an elaborate and dynamic network.
Disorders in the immune system can result in disease. Immunodeficiency diseases occur when the immune system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections and abnormal cell growth.
The innate immunity system consists of the complement system and Leukocytes (white blood cells).
The complement system (innate immunity) is a biochemical cascade that attacks the surfaces of foreign cells. It contains over 20 different proteins and is named for its ability to "complement" the killing of pathogens by antibodies. Complement is the major humoral component of the innate immune response.
Leukocytes act like independent, single-celled organisms and are the second arm of the innate immune system. The innate leukocytes include the phagocytes (macrophages, neutrophils, and dendritic cells), mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, and natural killer cells. These cells identify and eliminate pathogens, either by attacking larger pathogens through contact or by engulfing and then killing microorganisms. Innate cells are also important mediators in the activation of innate immunity.
Polysaccharides are relatively complex carbohydrates. They are polymers made up of many monosaccharides joined together by glycosidic bonds. They are therefore very large, often branched, macromolecules. There are many different types of polysaccharides, of which a few will be discussed below.
£]-Glucans (or betaglucans) are polysaccharides occurring in the bran of cereal grains, the cell wall of baker's yeast, certain types of fungi, and many kinds of mushrooms. An insoluble (1,3/1,6) betaglucan derived from baker's yeast has a different molecular structure than that of its soluble (1,3/1,4) counterparts and has a greater biological activity due to its structural "branching". Yeast derived betaglucans are notable for their immunomodulatory function. The differences between soluble and insoluble betaglucans are significant in regards to application, mode of action, and overall biological activity. Learn more about betaglucan & immune system
Terpenes are a large and varied class of hydrocarbons, produced primarily by a wide variety of plants. terpenes are major biosynthetic building blocks within nearly every living creature. Steroids, for example, are derivatives of the triterpene squalene.
Glycoproteins are proteins that contain oligosaccharide chains (glycans) covalently attached to their polypeptide side-chains. Glycoproteins are often important integral membrane proteins, where they play a role in cell-cell interactions.
White blood cells, or leukocytes, are cells of the immune system defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials. Several different and diverse types of leukocytes exist, but they are all produced and derived from a multipotent cell in the bone marrow known as a hematopoietic stem cell. Leukocytes are found throughout the body, including the blood and lymphatic system.
Cytokines are a category of signaling proteins and glycoproteins that, like hormones and neurotransmitters, are used extensively in cellular communication. Cytokines are critical to the development and functioning of both the innate and adaptive immune response. They are often secreted by immune cells that have encountered a pathogen, thereby activating and recruiting further immune cells to increase the system's response to the pathogen.
Natural Killer (NK) Cells
Natural Killer (NK) Cells are a type of cytotoxic lymphocyte that constitutes a major component of the innate immune system. Natural Killer (NK) Cells play a major role in the rejection of tumors and cells infected by viruses. Natural Killer (NK) Cells kill by releasing small cytoplasmic granules of proteins called perforin and granzyme that cause the target cell to die by apoptosis or necrosis.
Natural Killer (NK) Cells close up
Macrophages are cells within the tissues that originate from specific white blood cells called monocytes. Monocytes and macrophages are phagocytes, acting in both non-specific defense (or innate immunity) as well as specific defense (or cell-mediated immunity) of vertebrate animals. Their role is to phagocytose (engulf and then digest) cellular debris and pathogens either as stationary or mobile cells, and to stimulate lymphocytes and other immune cells to respond to the pathogen.
T Helper Cells
T helper cells (also known as effector T cells or Th cells) are a sub-group of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell or leukocyte) that plays an important role in establishing and maximizing the capabilities of the immune system. These cells are unusual in that they have no cytotoxic or phagocytic activity; they cannot kill infected host (also known as somatic) cells or pathogens, and without other immune cells they would usually be considered useless against an infection. Th cells are involved in activating and directing other immune cells, and are particularly important in the immune system. They are essential in determining B cell antibody class switching, in the activation and growth of cytotoxic T cells, and in maximizing bactericidal activity of phagocytes such as macrophages. It is this diversity in function and their role in influencing other cells that gives T helper cells their name.
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