I’m going to present you with an
overview of the immune system.
We’re all familiar with the fact that our
immune system protects us from infections.
We all get colds, and flu and stomach
upsets now and again where the immune
system helps fight those nasty
pathogens that are causing harm to us.
So there are many different types of pathogens that we come
across all the time - bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
See immune system actually has quite a tough job to do because
it has to recognize all these different types of pathogens.
Some of them like viruses,
are incredibly small.
Others like parasites can
actually be quite big.
Imagine a big tapeworm in your gut.
So it’s not surprising that you will learn
that the immune system doesn’t employ
just one strategy, but has multiple
strategies to deal with different types of
pathogens depending on where they are in
the body, whether they’re inside a cell,
whether they’re outside of a cell, whether
they’re very small, very big and so forth.
Before the immune system actually comes
into play, we have many different
defenses that are not strictly
speaking part of the immune system.
We call these the first
lines of defense.
So for example, the skin, which
forms a physical barrier.
If you think about it, if you have damage to
the skin, two major problems you have there.
One is fluid loss, but
the second is infection.
And this tells us very clearly that the skin is really
an important part of protecting us from infection.
We also have mucus which can prevent colonization
by microorganisms in places such as the lung.
Let’s not forget that not all
microorganisms are harmful.
We have commensal microorganisms that occupy a niche in
the body that could otherwise be taken up by pathogens.
And these commensal microorganisms will utilize nutrients
and so forth that would otherwise be available to pathogens.
So, let’s remember not all
microorganisms are bad.
Some of them are very
beneficial to us.
The acid pH in the stomach
can help resist pathogens.
And then we have enzymes
that can attack pathogens.
So all of these things collectively, are
very important in providing defense against
infection; Even though they are not strictly
speaking actually part of the immune response.
So what exactly is
the immune response?
Well the immune system is an
integrated defense system.
And it’s composed of tissues
and cells and molecules.
And as you will learn during this
lecture, there are actually several
different types of cells and molecules
that are involved in the immune system.
And in fact, we can divide the
immune response into two different
types; what we call the Innate
response and the Adaptive response.
The lymphoid tissues can be divided into two different types:
the primary lymphoid tissues and the secondary lymphoid tissues.
So maybe you’re wondering
exactly what the difference is?
Well the primary lymphoid tissues are where the
cells of the immune system are actually generated.
And they comprise the bone marrow, where
virtually all the cells of the immune
response originate from what are called
multipotent hematopoietic stem cells.
And then the other type of primary
lymphoid tissue is the thymus.
This is a very specialized tissue
and it’s where one particular type
of immune system cell, the T lymphocyte,
develops its functionality.
It becomes functional
within the thymus.
In contrast to the primary lymphoid tissues,
the secondary lymphoid tissues are
where the adaptive immune responses are
actually induced, where they’re generated.
And these comprise the Mucosa-Associated
Lymphoid Tissues which we usually
refer to as MALT; The abbreviation MALT
for Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, this is where pathogens that
are present at mucosal surfaces are first encountered.
And it consists of the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal
tract and the genitourinary tract mucosal tissues.
Then we have the lymph nodes, which is where pathogens
that are present in the body tissues are encountered.
Lymph nodes are scattered throughout
the body, as you can see here.
And they’re actually connected by lymphatic
vessels which we’ll talk about in a little bit.
And then the third type of secondary
lymphoid tissue is the spleen.
And cells in the spleen tend to deal predominantly with
pathogens that are present in the blood circulation.