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21: The Lymphatic and Immune System
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- 21.0: Introduction
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) turned out to be a new disease caused by the previously unknown human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Although nearly 100 percent fatal in those with active HIV infections in the early years, the development of anti-HIV drugs has transformed HIV infection into a chronic, manageable disease and not the certain death sentence it once was. One positive outcome resulting was that the public’s attention became focused on functional and healthy immune systems.
- 21.1: Anatomy of the Lymphatic and Immune Systems
- The immune system is the complex collection of cells and organs that destroys or neutralizes pathogens that would otherwise cause disease or death. The lymphatic system, for most people, is associated with the immune system to such a degree that the two systems are virtually indistinguishable. The lymphatic system is the system of vessels, cells, and organs that carries excess fluids to the bloodstream and filters pathogens from the blood.
- 21.2: Barrier Defenses and the Innate Immune Response
- The immune system can be divided into two overlapping mechanisms to destroy pathogens: the innate immune response, which is relatively rapid but nonspecific and thus not always effective, and the adaptive immune response, which is slower in its development during an initial infection with a pathogen, but is highly specific and effective at attacking a wide variety of pathogens.
- 21.3: The Adaptive Immune Response - T Lymphocytes and Their Functional Types
- Innate immune responses (and early induced responses) are in many cases ineffective at completely controlling pathogen growth. However, they slow pathogen growth and allow time for the adaptive immune response to strengthen and either control or eliminate the pathogen. The innate immune system also sends signals to the cells of the adaptive immune system, guiding them in how to attack the pathogen. Thus, these are the two important arms of the immune response.
- 21.4: The Adaptive Immune Response - B-Lymphocytes and Antibodies
- Antibodies were the first component of the adaptive immune response to be characterized by scientists working on the immune system. It was already known that individuals who survived a bacterial infection were immune to re-infection with the same pathogen. Early microbiologists took serum from an immune patient and mixed it with a fresh culture of the same type of bacteria, then observed the bacteria under a microscope.
- 21.5: The Immune Response Against Pathogens
- When following antibody responses in patients with a particular disease such as a virus, this clearance is referred to as seroconversion (sero- = “serum”). Seroconversion is the reciprocal relationship between virus levels in the blood and antibody levels. As the antibody levels rise, the virus levels decline, and this is a sign that the immune response is being at least partially effective (partially, because in many diseases, seroconversion does not necessarily mean a patient is getting well).
- 21.6: Diseases Associated with Depressed or Overactive Immune Responses
- This section is about how the immune system goes wrong. When it goes haywire, and becomes too weak or too strong, it leads to a state of disease. The factors that maintain immunological homeostasis are complex and incompletely understood.
- 21.7: Transplantation and Cancer Immunology
- The immune responses to transplanted organs and to cancer cells are both important medical issues. With the use of tissue typing and anti-rejection drugs, transplantation of organs and the control of the anti-transplant immune response have made huge strides in the past 50 years. Today, these procedures are commonplace. Tissue typing is the determination of MHC molecules in the tissue to be transplanted to better match the donor to the recipient.