The Human Immune System: Inflammation & Antibodies

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  • 0:01 The Immune System
  • 0:50 White Blood Cells
  • 1:45 Inflammation
  • 2:07 The Importance of Lymph
  • 3:00 Antibodies
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

A body as efficient as ours deserves an equally efficient immune system to protect it. Luckily for us, the efficiency of the immune system is its greatest strength, as this lesson demonstrates.

The Immune System

While some practitioners of Eastern philosophies may proclaim that your body is a temple, the truth is that it is just as much like a fortress always under attack. Every second that your body is alive, something is trying to attack it. Bacteria attempt to cause infections, viruses from the flu to much more serious disorders try to disrupt normal processes, and sometimes the body even has cells that turn on the body and start to attack it.

Thankfully, we have the immune system, or biological structures and processes, to fight back these threats to our body's well-being. In this lesson, we will look at some of the most important mechanisms within the immune system, namely white blood cells, the process of inflammation, lymph, and antibodies.

White Blood Cells

Imagine a busy highway in a major city. There are cars going every direction, but every so often, there are police cars just roaming through the streets to see if anyone is up to no good. White blood cells are the police cruisers of the body. Their job is to float through the blood stream and look for any threats.

White blood cells are often called leukocytes and are the body's first line of defense against invaders. However, like police cruisers, there are different types of white blood cells depending on the threat to the body. Some of these target only bacteria, while others attack bigger parasites or even cancer. However, one large group can be distinguished. While most white blood cells hang out in the bloodstream, lymphocytes float through the bloodstream but also into the lymph. These cells are some of the most active cells in the body - you can think of lymphocytes as the body's SWAT teams.


When a police officer sees a crime being committed, he immediately signals into headquarters to call for backup. The body does the same thing through a process called inflammation. Inflammation causes swelling, redness, and, above all else, more blood to flow to a given area. More blood means more backup against the invaders.

The Importance of Lymph

Sometimes, however, a pathogen can sneak past the bloodstream and into other parts of the body. This is where lymph comes in. Remember that lymph is the pale-yellow fluid that drains away from many parts of the body before rejoining the circulatory system. It's like storm drains in a major city. However, it is also home to many of the lymphocytes.

While I mentioned them earlier, it is in the lymph that these cells really shine. These are the parts of the immune system that attack more serious threats, including cancer. The hostile cells are taken to the lymph nodes in an attempt to focus more white blood cells upon them. However, this can backfire. Sometimes harmful cells make it to the lymph nodes and are then able to move more freely throughout the body since the lymphocytes can't defeat them. This is especially true in the case of cancer.


But for those that they can defeat, lymphocytes have one important tool in their bag that deserves special mention. Typical white blood cells simply eat any pathogens in their way. However, sometimes the body has to fight infections that are too intimidating for a run of the mill white blood cell to do away with on its own. Perhaps the invader is too fast or has too good of defenses. In either case, here is where the lymphocytes stand out.

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