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Immune System – Anatomy & Physiology

What Is The Function of The Immune System



By:  Rita Louise

Immune - Lymphatic System - Anatomy & PhysiologyThe immune system is part of our general body defenses against disease. It functions by recognizing viruses and bacteria and converting that information into hormones that activate the immune process.

This response can be both specific, where the body responds only to certain agents and no others as well as nonspecific, where the body works to defend itself any harmful agent that enters the body.

Immunity is the ability of an individual to resist or overcome the effects of a particular disease or other harmful agent. Immunity, however, is a selective process, with one being immune to one disease and not necessarily another. Immunity can be either inborn, which is due to inherited factors, or acquired. Acquired immunity develops during one’s lifetime as they encounter various harmful agents and successfully fight them off. Acquired immunity is easily seen in the case that we only get the chicken pox once as a child, even though we may be exposed to them on a number of occasions.

The immune system has been broken down into a number of different “lines of defenses”, starting simply with mechanical barriers and then becoming more and more complex, they include:

  • Mechanical Barriers – are the first line of defense against harmful agents. Mechanical barriers include the skin, mucus membranes that line passageways that enter the body.
  • Chemical Barriers – tears, perspiration and saliva work to wash away harmful invaders while digestive juices and enzymes destroy bacteria and other toxins from ingested substances.
  • Phagocytosis – is the ability of certain white blood cells to take in and destroy waste and foreign materials.
  • Natural Killer Cells – are able to distinguish cells with an abnormal cellular membrane such as tumor cells or cells infected with a virus and kill them on contact.
  • Inflammation – is the body’s effort to get rid of anything that irritates it. If the inflammation is due to pathogens, the inflammation is referred to as an infection.
  • Fever – boosts the immune system by stimulating phagocytes, increasing metabolism and decreasing the ability of certain organisms to multiply.




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