Understanding the immune system has led to some of the greatest innovations in medicine, from the rapid development of COVID vaccines, to the development of the latest and greatest generation of cancer treatments. As a scientific field, immunology offers a very broad and very detailed understanding of how the immune system functions in principle. This understanding encompasses a whole universe of beautiful complexity.
Despite the wealth of knowledge we now have on how the immune system works, it may surprise you to learn that we have very limited understanding of how an individual's immune system works and on a personal level, what that means for an individual's health.
When it comes to our immune systems, things get very personal. Our immune system knows us inside out on a molecular level. It is capable of recognising and remembering everything that makes you, you. Your immune system can recognise every virus and bacteria that will ever exist and it's able to tell the difference between the two, but that’s true for everyone. It is truly a remarkable construct of evolution.
When it's working well, your immune system is truly a superpower, but when it's not working well, it can leave us exposed to a wide array of infections, cancers and even cause disease itself.
Your immune system is made up of billions of cells with huge variation in their purpose and design. These cells work together through complex communication channels that monitor your environment and respond to the multitude of threats from foreign bodies trying to make you their home. This battleground for your health occurs in and under your skin 24 hours a day!
Your first line of defence
Innate immunity is the first line of defence, using identical mechanisms to fight all types of pathogens and foreign antigens. It is rapid and initiated within minutes or hours after encountering antigens, involving white blood cells (immune cells) such as neutrophils, basophils and natural killer cells. To call this unsophisticated is wrong but another level of sophistication exists within your adaptive immune system.
Your immune system never forgets
When your innate immunity needs more assistance, it calls on your adaptive immunity to provide a more specific response towards a pathogen, while at the same time building up memory to fight the same pathogen more rapidly and efficiently upon re-exposure.
Many of the immune cells involved in adaptive immunity circulate in your bloodstream, such as T and B cells, which migrate to the site of infection to either directly kill infected cells or help produce antibodies against the unwanted intruder.
Your immune health
Through more understanding of every immune system but, specifically, your immune system, you will learn to appreciate the effects of vaccines, medical treatments, ‘immune boosting’ techniques, disease, sickness, historic illnesses, diet and exercise and how these all impact on the effectiveness of your truly incredible immune system.
If you nurture your immune system to a state of good balance, you will be more prepared to deal with the unsettling threats we have to live with. We believe in empowering the immune system to best serve you on your journey to good health and that starts with understanding.