Understanding the Immune System
The immune system or immunity is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that protect your body from foreign invaders like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that can cause infections and diseases. The immune system also assists in getting rid of pre-cancerous cells that are growing out of control. Whenever the immune system senses an attack of foreign bodies, it triggers a release of special cells. These special cells attack the intruders and get rid of them.
Types of Immune System
- Innate Immunity – It refers to the non-specific defense mechanisms that respond almost immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body. This includes barriers like skin, chemicals present in the blood, and immune system cells. This response is activated by the chemical properties of the antigen itself. The response of innate immunity is rapid
- Adaptive Immunity – It refers to antigen-specific immune response. It first recognizes the antigen, then processes it, and then works on creating a specific army of immune cells that are designed specifically to attack that antigen. The response is relatively slower. It includes lymph nodes, spleen, mucosal-associated lymph tissues and is composed of B-Cells and T-Cells
The immune system has a tough time-fighting cancer cells because it fails to recognize the cancer cells as foreign and then cancer cells start to grow out of control. This is why many people with healthy immune systems still end up developing cancer. However, sometimes it might recognize them but the response is not strong enough to destroy cancer.
Cancer cells give off substances that keep the immune system in check or in a state of inactivity. To overcome this, researchers have found methods to make the immune system recognize the cancer cells. It also aims at strengthening the response so that it is able to destroy the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy, also known as biologic therapy is one such method. It boosts the body’s natural defense mechanisms to fight viruses. It adds to the maintenance of both, innate and adaptive immune systems. It improves the immune system functions by:
- Giving the immune system components externally, like man-made system proteins
- Stimulating the existing system to work harder
- Stopping or slowing the growth of viruses or cancerous cells
- Improving the functioning of the immune system to work better at destroying antigens
- Preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
A strong and healthy immune system goes a long way in maintaining a healthy and illness-free lifestyle.