Antibodies are essentially proteins that exist within the fluids of the body, and are mainly used by the immune system as a response device. Antibodies are created within the plasma cells, a type of primary white blood cell used within the body as a natural defense system against disease. In humans, and most mammals, there are generally five principle antibodies, each with essentially the same basic structure as the other. What set each antibody apart are the tips of the various antibody proteins. These tips are the segments of the antibodies that actually interact with the contaminant, and thus allowing millions of individual antibodies to exist.
What Do Antibodies Do?
In most cases, these antibodies serve as a tagging tool for the body, which alerts the other defensive cells of the immune system to attack the intruders they’ve tagged. The antibodies bind to the invasive parts, called the antigen. Antigens come in very specific shapes, known as the epitope, and each antibody is only able to fit within one epitope. This is due to the antibody’s specifically shaped tip, giving the antibody and epitome a type of lock and key relationship. Once a connection is made, it is then known as an induced fit, and the antigen immediately becomes recognized by the attacking defensive cells as a threat, signaling the body to take action. Antibodies attach to dangerous and often fight alongside killer T cells, which attack already infected cells like those weakened by a virus or infection. This combined effort by both the antibodies and the T cells gives the body a much quicker response time to fight off disease, and helps it maintain a healthy immune system, free of infection and viruses.
Other Types of Antibodies
B cells, another kind of responder cell within the body, also uses antibodies to detect antigens. The B cells use the antibody component to detect and bind to harmful antigens, and then proceeds to absorb both the antibody and the antigen, and process them into peptides. These peptides are used to then attract the killer T cells, because they assist in triggering the B cell reaction. Once triggered, the B cells will begin to spit and divide, thus creating a strong army of defensive cells, all with the job of specifically targeting the specific antibody it had previously absorbed and focusing the army on fighting that threat expressly.
What Else Can Antibodies Do?
Antibodies do not simply just tag pathogens though; they are also equipped to directly interact with them in order to help stop the spreading of harmful viruses. When antigens attach themselves to other cells to infect them, the antibody can bind itself to the exact point where these two cells connect, and therefore neutralize the threat and prevent the spread of the virus to other healthy cells.