8.2.7 Immune System in the Body

The human immune system consists of lymphoid organs, tissues, cells and soluble molecules like antibodies. As you have read, immune system is unique in the sense that it recognises foreign antigens, responds to these and remembers them.

The immune system also plays an important role in allergic reactions, auto-immune diseases and organ transplantation. Lymphoid organs: These are the organs where origin and/or maturation and proliferation of lymphocytes occur.

The primary lymphoid organs are bone marrow and thymus where immature lymphocytes differentiate into antigen-sensitive lymphocytes.

After maturation the lymphocytes migrate to secondary lymphoid organs like spleen, lymph nodes, tonsils, Peyer’s patches of small intestine and appendix.

The secondary lymphoid organs provide the sites for interaction of lymphocytes with the antigen, which then proliferate to become effector cells. The location of various lymphoid organs in the human body is shown in Figure.

The bone marrow is the main lymphoid organ where all blood cells including lymphocytes are produced. The thymus is a lobed organ located near the heart and beneath the breastbone.

The thymus is quite large at the time of birth but keeps reducing in size with age and by the time puberty is attained it reduces to a very small size. Both bone-marrow and thymus provide micro-environments for the development and maturation of T-lymphocytes.

The spleen is a large beanshaped organ. It mainly contains lymphocytes and phagocytes. It acts as a filter of the blood by trapping blood-borne microorganisms. Spleen also has a large reservoir of erythrocytes.

The lymph nodes are small solid structures located at different points along the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes serve to trap the micro-organisms or other antigens, which happen to get into the lymph and tissue fluid.

Antigens trapped in the lymph nodes are responsible for the activation of lymphocytes present there and cause the immune response.

There is lymphoid tissue also located within the lining of the major tracts (respiratory, digestive and urogenital tracts) called mucosalassociated lymphoid tissue (MALT). It constitutes about 50 per cent of the lymphoid tissue in human body.

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