Each week I am learning about and explaining how our immune system works. I broke this down into the Five Pillars that form our immune system: Power, Blood, Command & Control, Cell Walls & Hunters.
T-Cells are our snipers, trained to identify and take out a target. For this article I an using the COVID19 Virus as our enemy.
T-cells are a type of white blood cell and together with B-Cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells are members of one of six different classes of white blood cells. There is lots going on but these 3 are all involved with COVID19.
How does a sniper figure out if what he is looking at is a friend or an enemy?
BTW, the COVID19 virus has a similar challenge: how to recognize a target (healthy cell) that it can attack and infect.
Cells and viruses all have a sack or membrane that keeps the stuff inside inside. On the surface of the sack are unique protein structures that can be used to identify what is inside the sack. These structures are called antigens which were explained to me as a similar to a key. To attack a cell, an antigen on a virus looks for a receptor or lock that it can bind with and open. Spike proteins are COVID19's unique antigens.
Our first line of defense- Natural Killer (NK) Cells
NK cells look for friends. NK cells build an inventory of the antigens that belong in our bodies. If it finds anything that doesn't have the "friend" key then it assumes it is an enemy and tries to kill it. It has no idea what type of enemy it found and how many there are. At the same time, it sends a signal out that we have been infiltrated by something that doesn't belong.
Next up: B-Cells.
The moment we are born, we start building an inventory of the antigens/keys that don't belong. B-Cells variants are trained to make a B-Cell receptor or lock that fits the each key that doesn't belong.
There are literally 10 billion B-Cells in our bodies right now each containing a B-Cell receptor hanging around looking to find if its matching antigen is in our blood stream. If yes, then the B-Cell sends out the SOS signal and now we know what enemy we are up against.
The first and fastest way we can fight is to flood the battlefield with fake targets!
The SOS signals go to our bone marrow and lymph nodes telling them to crank up production of the B-Cell variant that matches up to the threat. These B-Cells flood into the bloodstream and the B-Cell Receptors morph into fake locks that act like fake targets. These locks connect up with the key of the virus taking that key out of circulation. Fake locks are called antibodies.
NK and B-Cells can only operate in the bloodstream. If the virus sneak past our blood base defense system and infects a healthy cell we call in the snipers.
T-Cells- Our snipers.
T-cells have the task of identifying and killing infected cells while avoiding killing healthy ones. Each T-Cell is a sniper that knows how to defeat one and only one type of pathogen. The SOS signals tell our thymus to ramp up production of that T-Cell variant and we flood the battlefield with snipers looking for infected cells to take out.
What happens if we are faced with a new enemy that our B-Cells can't recognize and our T-Cells aren't trained for?
Our thymus is also responsible to figure out new T-Cell variants that work against new threats. This process takes time typically 3-6 days. The chemistry of how this works is beyond me at the moment.
How to vaccines work?
The idea of vaccines is to accelerate the training of B Cell and T-Cell variants that can recognize a new threat, develop antibodies to neutralize the threat in the bloodstream and T-Cells to take out infected cells. Vaccines work by injecting weakened viruses or by injecting sacks that don't have the "friend key" but do have that have the same antigen that the virus uses to infect healthy cells. The NK cells kick off the training class which hopefully finishes up 3-6 days later.
What micronutrients are needed to make Hunters?
We need a functioning thymus to develop the correct T-Cells and to quickly ramp up enough T-cells destroy infected cells faster than the virus can replicate.
Unfortunately our thymus is vulnerable to mitochondrial dysfunction. It needs lots of power to make T-Cells. Next week I will cover Power in much more detail along with the impact reactive oxygen species (ROS) has on our bodies and thymus.
Unfortunately modern diets erode the capacity of the thymus to make T-Cells starting the decline around the time you turn 21. Seniors are especially vulnerable to COVID19 as their thymus lacks the capacity to make T-Cells in enough volume to beat back the advance of the virus.
While a vaccine can help the thymus train T-Cells, vaccines do not help make more T-Cells. Take care of your thymus and help it take care of you.
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