The Basic Things You Need to Know about Antibodies

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Our bodies are exposed to countless harmful particles each day. Some are only able to enter the body through broken skin whereas others are inhaled or ingested. Either way, they have the power to wreak various types and degrees of havoc once they enter the bloodstream. Fortunately, we’re naturally equipped with certain weapons to help fight off those bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Our immune systems continually produce cells known as antibodies to seek out harmful invaders and stop them in their tracks.

Antibodies Explained 

As noted at, antibodies can serve a number of purposes, and research is constantly unearthing new possibilities. On the most basic level, though, they’re Y-shaped proteins whose primary function is to find foreign cells and fight them off. Once they find bacteria, viruses or chemical toxins, known as antigens, the antibodies bind to them and generate an in-depth immune response. Of course, the process is multifaceted.

Digging Deeper 

Various types of antibodies exist. Initially, the body’s single-cell scouts are called B cells. These antibodies are generic in nature, and their sole function is to find foreign cells and initiate an intruder alert. Then, they simply stick to those antigens so other antibodies can identify and attack them.

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From there, our immune systems create additional antibodies known as T cells. Different types of T cells are required for bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and other invaders. Furthermore, specific T cells are needed to fight off each individual infection. After the B cells alert the body of intruders, it determines which type of antigen is present and generates customized T cells in preparation for battle.

Once those T cells weaken the enemy, a new type of cell comes along. Known as phagocytes, these larger cells essentially consume the dead antigens left behind by T cells. This phase of the immune response clears the body of the infection.

In the Aftermath 

After the immune system develops antigen-specific antibodies, those Y-shaped cells remain in the body to attack their predetermined targets should they try to invade again. Since they’re already up in arms, future invasions are often fought off more quickly than initial ones. Many immunizations work on the same principle. They introduce antibodies for common illnesses into the body, so they stand ready in advance of infection.

When the Ys Go Awry 

In some cases, immune systems don’t function quite as they should. Some people live with immunodeficiencies, so they’re unable to fight off infections. When conditions in this category are present, the immune system needs outside intervention to function adequately. Other people have overactive immune systems in which antibodies attack internal tissues rather than foreign invaders.

With rheumatoid arthritis, B and T cells attack the joints. Those suffering from IBD experience flareups because the immune system assaults the lining of the intestines. Psoriasis prompts the immune system to reproduce skin cells too rapidly, and conditions like multiple sclerosis cause T cells to attack the nervous system.

In a Nutshell 

Antibodies protect us from the countless harmful antigens by which we’re continually bombarded. Through a complex process, the immune system detects invaders, locks onto them, destroys them and helps make sure they’re not able to take over again moving forward. Although antibodies sometimes become a bit too aggressive in their efforts to fight off infections, these powerful, customizable cells are vital in a wide range of scenarios from wellness to research.

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