Liberal Arts Blog — The Immune System I: Antibodies, Lymph Nodes, Lymphocytes
Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, and Numbers Day
Today’s Topic — The Immune System I: Antibodies, Lymph Nodes, Lymphocytes
It boggles my mind that we have 10 billion different kinds of anti-bodies for 10 billion different antigens!!!!! The human body’s defense department is huge! Today, we are just counting antibodies, lymph nodes, and lymphocytes. Another time we’ll look at the non-specific immune cells — phagocytes that engulf (“eat”) the enemy. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
ANTIBODIES — 10 billion different kinds!!!!!!!
1. “Each tip of the “Y” of an antibody contains a paratope (analogous to a lock) that is specific for one particular epitope (analogous to a key) on an antigen, allowing these two structures to bind together with precision.”
2. “Using this binding mechanism, an antibody can tag a microbe or an infected cell for attack by other parts of the immune system, or can neutralize its target directly (for example, by inhibiting a part of a microbe that is essential for its invasion and survival).”
3. Antibodies are glycoproteins secreted by B-cells.
NB: The body keeps records of all pathogens in the form of memory T and B cells which can hang around for decades or even the rest of your life giving you “immunity” which results in a vastly accelerated (“anamnestic”) response such that the returning invader is often eliminated before you have any symptoms.
LYMPH NODES — 500 TO 600
1. Lymph nodes filter “lymph” which is a blood-plasma like fluid derived from the interstitial fluid that seeps out of capillaries and is brought back by a system of lymph vessels into the central venous system via the right or left subclavian vein.
2. In the nodes are “lymphocytes” which attack foreign invaders.
3. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells (leukocytes) of which
they make up between 20 and 40%.
TYPES OF LYMPHOCYTES (very rough percentages)
1. “T Helpers” (28–59%) — regulate other immune cells through “cytokines” which act for example as fail-safe mechanisms to prevent over-reactions.
2. B-Cells (18–47%): secrete antibodies
3. Cytotoxic T Cells (13–32%): destroy infected cells. A process called “lysis.”
NB: Natural Killer Cells (2–13%) — also destroy infected cells. Gamma delta T Cells (2–8%) — immunoregulation.
So what are your personal favorite magic numbers? What do they stand for? Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.