What Does the Immune System Do?


Quick Answer

The function of the immune system is to prevent, detect and stop infection within the organism. The immune system has innate immune cells for rapid response in a generic capacity and adaptive immune cells that attack specific threats.

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Full Answer

The immune system detects and reacts to certain indicators, such as the danger-associated molecular patterns and the pathogen-associated molecular patterns, and it responds by sending innate and adaptive immune cells. The immune cells communicate by releasing signaling molecules or by direct cell-to-cell contact.

Immune cells are divided into many subcategories, each with specific functions. They originate in the bone marrow, developing and maturing in different parts of the body, such as in skin layers, in the bloodstream, in the lymphatic system, in the spleen and in the mucosal tissue. The immune system has a tolerance against self-antigens, preventing the immune cells from attacking the host cells, but it has to be suppressed when transplanting an organ into the host to prevent it from attacking the foreign cells. It can also be suppressed by some diseases, some drugs and during pregnancy. The immune system can also cause harm by malfunctioning, resulting in allergies, autoimmune diseases, certain types of cancer and sepsis. Immune systems are found in all species of animals and are present in some types of bacteria.

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