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Antibodies: What They Are, Types, and Functions


Imagine a team of elite defenders ready to take on any threat to your health. These defenders are antibodies, remarkable proteins that protect us from harmful invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins.

Understanding antibodies can revolutionize our approach to health and wellness, unlocking new levels of vitality and longevity as they safeguard our health and pave the way for advanced treatments and cutting-edge diagnostics.

What are antibodies?

Antibodies are proteins specialized B cells produce in response to foreign bodies called antigens. They recognize, bind, and neutralize specific antigens, helping to remove them from the body. Each type of antibody is unique and defends the body against a particular type of antigen. Sometimes, antibodies are produced when the immune system erroneously identifies healthy tissue as a threat, leading to an autoimmune disorder.

Antibodies are composed of Ifour protein chains — two heavy chains and two light chains connected by disulfide bonds — that form a Y-shaped molecule. The tips of the Y called the variable regions, are unique and can bind specifically to antigens, molecules on the surface of pathogens, or foreign substances.

Antibodies play a crucial role in the immune system, conferring protection against infections and diseases. Antibodies fight infections with the precision and strategy of a master chess player, identifying each invader and planning an exact counter-move.

How does the antigen-antibody complex work?

The antigen-antibody complex forms when an antibody precisely binds to a specific antigen, much like a lock and key. This binding neutralizes the antigen, preventing it from causing harm.

Once formed, the complex triggers the immune system to activate various defense mechanisms, such as phagocytosis, where immune cells engulf and destroy the invader, or complement activation, which boosts the ability of antibodies and phagocytic cells to clear pathogens. This sophisticated interaction is essential for identifying and eliminating harmful substances, safeguarding the body, and maintaining overall health.

Types and functions of antibodies

  • There are five main types of antibodies, also known as immunoglobulin (Ig), each with distinct functions and locations in the body:
  • Immunoglobulin A (IgA), found predominantly in mucosal tissues of the mouth, vagina, and intestines, as well as in saliva, tears, and breast milk, accounts for 15% of our antibodies and forms protective dimers in secretions to block bacterial invasion.
  • Immunoglobulin D (IgD) is located on the surface of B cells — white blood cells making antibodies. It aids in the production of antibodies and helps prevent respiratory tract infections.
  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is present in the skin, lungs, and mucus membranes and is crucial in allergic reactions, such as pollinosis. It binds to mast cells to trigger allergic reactions.
  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG) makes up about 75% of all antibodies in the human body. It plays a vital role in our defense system by binding to bacteria and toxins. Remarkably, it can cross the placental barrier to protect infants and influence the neonate’s immunity.
  • Lastly, Immunoglobulin M (IgM) is primarily found in the blood. It is the first antibody produced by B cells upon pathogen invasion, providing the immune system’s initial line of defense.
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