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I love learning about how incredibly clever the human body is. Whether its how blood carries oxygen or how nerves work. One part of my previous studies took me into the fascinating and crazy world of the immune system.

Well what do I mean by immune system?

The immune system is the collection of cells and organs that allow the body to stop other living organisms, substances and our own cells from hurting us.

The immune system is often overlooked by many people, we only tend to notice it when it is overcome by an organism (like getting a cold) or does it wrong (like an allergy)! We often think that the body is only attacked when we become ill, but actually every single day our body is successfully beating back threats.

So what is the first line of defence that we possess as organisms? Well this would be the natural structures and barriers that our body’s have in place to prevent our glorious tissues and cells from being damaged.

This barrier could be the skin where a layer of dead keratinised (hardened with a protein called keratin) skin is in place to act as an inhospitable barrier to the bugs and beasties. Its an environment that is so hostile only certain organisms can even live here. That’s right, your skin may be soft and supple to you but to a bacteria it is a desolate hellscape.

We have another barrier as well which we refer to as:

The mucosa.

The easiest way to think of this what mucosa actually is, is using these two criteria

  1. Its exposed to the great outdoors.
  2. It’s not skin.

With those in mind we are talking about, eyes, mouths, guts etc. All the stuff that’s either moist or mucousy. Gross. That disgusting mucous is in fact another layer of defence. Get ready for… Mucous. 

Imagine you are a bacteria, all you want is a warm, humid place to live. You want to just `live off the body`, so to speak. So you find the mouth. It ticks all the boxes- also free food too, not just in the forms of body cells! You get to the gum then suddenly you are ripped apart by a colourless soup of deadly immune things! You have been foiled by Mucous, a thick, gooey, protein and cell filled liquid that is a melange of defensive materials that our bodies use to protect ourselves. Not only does it provide a chemical barrier but it also provides a physical one too. Pretty neat!

So how does our body know what to attack? The answer is antibodies. Antibodies.

That’s a story for next time! 

Written by Chris Geraghty – Clinical Quality Manager