The immune system: behind the scenes

Richard Jefferys
ACRIA Update, Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 2001/2002

The human immune system is a dazzlingly complicated mix of many different cells, tissues and chemical factors that work together to try to maintain health.

The immune system has evolved over billions of years to accomplish a multitude of tasks, including responding to infections but also tolerating substances — like pollen and food ingredients — that pose no danger to the body. The system, as we know, is not perfect.

Allergies represent a potentially dangerous overreaction to things that are ordinarily harmless, while weak or ineffective responses to harmful infections can lead to disease. The mounting of an immune response can be thought of as a major production, involving a vast cast of characters and a rough script to guide communications between them. The production often progresses seamlessly, but at other times, missed cues and forgotten lines may spell disaster.

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