Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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    What are Antibodies and how do they work?

    With the second wave of COVID-19 slipping away and several lockdowns through the past year, many biological terms have become a constant in our daily vocabulary. One of them is “antibodies.”

    These are special proteins manufactured by our bodies to protect against any foreign particle which harms or infects us. It’s because of them why we don’t get certain diseases like measles and chickenpox, twice. A foreign particle that invades our body, for example, bacteria, virus, or cancer cells, has a common term, known as “antigen”, which has a particular area recognized by the immune system. This area on an antigen is known as the “epitope” which is primarily recognized by our antibodies. However, not all those attack the same kind of antigen. They tend to be specific because they are derived from different kinds of B cells. B cells are immune cells that are formed in the bone marrow, they differentiate into plasma cells which thereby secrete antibodies.

    Let’s consider an example to illustrate the same. If someone is affected by a viral or bacterial disease, the antigens end up stimulate an immune response by which plasma cells start producing antibodies. The immune response is the reason why symptoms show up.

    Antibodies usually serve three functions:

    • Neutralization: These are usually secreted into the blood and mucosa, where they
      bind and inactivate pathogens.
    • Lysis: They activate different immune proteins to punch holes in bacterial cell walls.
    • Opsonization: Antibodies synthesize phagocytic cells which swallow the pathogen. These are usually the ones responsible for immunological memory and tolerance. However, no matter their indispensability, only form a fraction of our very intricate immune system.
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