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Immune Response and Allergy

Background Info

Many of the most devastating human diseases result from an attack of various microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi) on the human body. The flu epidemic of 1918 killed 22 million Americans and Europeans in just 18 months, and our ongoing war against the HIV virus is still waging. In order to fight against this onslaught, the human body developed a sophisticated system that is able to screen, identify, and destroy invading microorganisms before they cause severe damage to the human body. This system, called the Immune System, continuously monitors our blood stream for the presence of foreign cells or molecules. Once an infection is recorded, the system is able to launch a full-scale attack directed against the specific invader. Organisms with compromised immune systems, or those lacking immune systems, cannot survive for long. Infections that are able to escape or destroy the immune system’s surveillance (such as HIV) are extremely dangerous.

Classification and Evolution of Life

Problem

You work for a company which creates posters and informational material for doctor's offices.

Your team's new project is to prepare information on the immune system.
This information will be sent to graphic designers later to polish the visuals, but you need to ensure that the content is accurate.

1. The immune system is composed of several types of cells whose coordinated, concerted effort is required for screening, identification, and eventual purging of microbial invasion. This is especially evident when the body launches the Specific Immune Response, comprised of both Humoral and Cell-Mediated Immunity.

Create a network diagram (flow chart) showing the components of the Specific Immune Response that shows the interaction and relationships of the cells in both Humoral & Cell-Mediated Immunity.

2. Sometimes too much of a good thing is not so good. When our immune system detects a foreign molecule and mounts an immune response, it is sometimes unaware that the foreign molecule is actually completely harmless. Many cases of allergies are a result of an aggressive immune response against an organism or molecule that harbors no real threat to our body.

Explain the components of our immune system involved in allergic reactions, and how does treatment of allergies manage to control them?

Create a brochure designed to explain the causes of allergies and tips for allergy management to a non-scientific audience.

Solution Preview

1. The immune system is composed of several types of cells whose coordinated, concerted effort is required for screening, identification, and eventual purging of microbial invasion. This is especially evident when the body launches the Specific Immune Response, comprised of both Humoral and Cell-Mediated Immunity.

Create a network diagram (flow chart) showing the components of the Specific Immune Response that shows the interaction and relationships of the cells in both Humoral & Cell-Mediated Immunity.

Humoral immunity is mediated by antibodies that are secreted by B cells (aka B lymphocytes) and circulate in the blood and lymph. Humoral immunity can be divided into active and passive immunity. In active immunity the person actively makes an antibody after exposure to a foreign antigen; in passive immunity a person is given an antibody that has been made by someone else (for example a fetus gets an antibody from its mother through the placenta).

Cell-mediated immunity involves activated T cells which directly attack foreign antigens. The helper T cells also activate B cells by secreting lymphokines, therefore initiating the humoral immune response.

Paul, W. E. et al. (eds.) 2003. Fundamental Immunology. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.
Fix, D. F. 2006. "Medical Microbiology." http://www.cehs.siu.edu/fix/medmicro/index.html.
Beers, M. H. & Berkow, R. (eds.) 2006. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Merck ...

Solution Summary

The solution consists of an explanation of cell-mediated and humoral immunity, a flow chart that outlines the immune response that occurs when a pathogen enters the body, the definition of allergy, lists of symptoms and treatments for allergies, list of common allergens, an explanation of the immune response involved in an allergic reaction and references for all of the above. This information should help the student put together their own brochure. Information is included in two attached Word documents.

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