How Do Antibodies Work?

Our bodies are complex machines. We are made up of cells and proteins, and every tiny little cell in our makeup has a very important job. Our bodies work hard to make sure that we stay fit and healthy, and proteins are key in this. 

For those with interest on how the human body works so well, check out Or, stick around to learn about antibodies. 

Antibodies are those powerful little proteins that bind to foreign invaders in our bodies and keep us safe. They are basically the hunters of our immune system, hunting down anything that could harm us, and putting a big red sign on it saying ‘destroy’ so our body knows to attack these damaging invaders. 

They protect us from all sorts, be it the common cold, an infection, a virus, and so on. 

This is the basis of how they work, but let’s learn more, so you better understand your body. 

What Are Antibodies?

Antibodies are also known as immunoglobulins are protective proteins that are made in our immune system. They respond to the presence of any foreign bodies that enter our bodies known as antigens. 

They will recognize and attach themselves to the antigens to help get them out of the body. 

Our bodies recognize many things as antigens, from any organisms which may cause disease, or any toxic materials, even such as insect venom and so on. 

They are basically the first line of defense that your immune system puts up against ANYTHING that could harm you.

What Do They Look Like?

Antibodies have two arms at their top part, making them look like a ‘Y’ shape which helps them bind onto attacking antigens. The bottom part of this ‘Y’ shape will bind to other compounds in your immune system which helps to kill off the antigen. 

One set of these could trigger a complement cascade, which is the executioner, punching holes into the antigen, e.g. creating holes inside a virus membrane. 

Antibodies will all have this same ‘Y’ shape, no matter which they are, some may be more complex such as the igM antibody which actually looks more similar to Druga, a ten armed Hindu goddess, with five ‘Y’ shapes stacked together. 

But they all look similar in this regard, as this shape helps them bind to attackers. 

How They Work

So, how do they work? Well, when a foreign body enters your immune system, your body will recognize that it is foreign as the molecules on its surface will be different to what you would find naturally inside your body. 

To kill off this invader, your immune system has a plan. It calls on the production of antibodies, these are made by your white blood cells. 

When an antigen binds to your white blood B-cells, it will stimulate it to divide into a set of clones, these will then let out millions and millions of antibodies into your bloodstream.

As these antibodies travel around your body, they will attach any antigens that look like the one that triggers your immune system to respond. They will bind to the antigens. 

This could be such as when an antibody finds a toxin, they neutralize the poison by changing its chemical makeup. Antibodies that do this are better known as antitoxins. 

They attach themselves to invaders and render them immobile, or even simply stop them from getting into your cells. Some antibodies will create a chemical reaction, known as a complement.

In this case, the complement triggers the invading microbes to burst, or even attracts cells that will ingest the invading microbe. 

Once triggered, your antibody production will continue for a few days until every antigen has been removed or killed. They will then circulate your system for some months, like a guard dog ensuring that the invaders do not return. 

Antibodies In Medicine

In spite of how our bodies naturally do this, antibodies have a very important feature in medicine and research alike. Antibodies that come from the blood of infected animals and people will be put into an antiserum for another person to give immediate immunization in a passive way. 

Basically teaching the antibodies about this invader, so you are better prepared. We know this as vaccination, it educates your antibodies about potential invaders, so if the invader does return your body is already knowledgeable about how to deal with it. 

In a sense, vaccinations are just your antibodies undergoing a mock exam on a particular invading virus.


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