Humans live in an environment where they are exposed to, and bombarded with, millions of potential pathogens. We are able to stay healthy, thanks in part, to our first line of defense: the innate immune system. Innate immunity refers to the part of the immune system that is present at birth and mounts an immediate and non-specific response to pathogens1. The cells and proteins recognize conserved features of pathogens which allows the rapid activation of the innate immune system2.
The innate immune system is comprised of physical barriers and cellular responses3,4. Skin and other epithelial surfaces, such as the lining of the lungs and gut, as well as cilia, eyelashes and body hair, provide a physical barrier between the world and the inside of the body. Secretions such as mucus, gastric acid, tears and sweat work hand-in-hand with the physical barriers by protecting and preventing pathogens from adhering to the surface of the epithelium, or skin2.
There are numerous types of immune cells, or white blood cells that defend and protect the human body. In order to protect the entire human body, white blood cells, or leukocytes, travel via the circulatory system. The leukocytes fall into three categories: phagocytes, granulocytes, and antigen presenting cells. Phagocytes travel throughout the body looking for potential threats in order to engulf and destroy the threat4. There are several types of phagocytes involved in the innate immune system. First, Macrophages that move across the walls of capillary vessels in order to hunt outside the circulatory system. Second, Mast Cells are found in mucus membranes and connective tissues and help with wound healing. Finally, Neutrophils are classified as phagocytes and granulocytes because of the granules in their cytoplasm and are typically the first cells to arrive at the site of infection4.
Granulocytes are classified as such because of the granules, which contain enzymes that digest microorganisms, within their cytoplasm5. Along with Neutrophils, Eosinophils are granulocytes that target multicellular parasites by secreting highly toxic proteins and Basophils also attach multicellular parasite and act by secreting histamine4. The innate immune system has one type of antigen presenting cell, Dendritic cells. They are located within tissues and can contact external environments through the skin and act as messengers for the rest of the immune system. The last leukocyte within the innate immune system is the Natural Killer (NK) cell. NK cells are unique in that they do not attack pathogens, they destroy infected host cells to stop the spread of infection4.
Upon introduction of a foreign pathogen, the body’s physical barriers do their best to keep the pathogen out, but upon infection the innate immune system mounts an attack. Initially, inflammation occurs at the site of infection allowing the cellular response to occur. Immune cells flood to the area and attack both the pathogen and any infected host cells in an attempt to clear the infection. This activation can occur immediately or within hours of infection in a non-specific manner. The innate immune responses are the first line of defense against the millions of potential pathogens in the world1,2,3,4. Bethyl manufactures many antibodies to proteins involved in the innate immune system.
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