In a modern and civilized society, health and well-being are two of the most important values. To protect them, every individual is advised to care for balanced nutrition, to exercise, and to have insurances that help finance medical treatments and medications in case of an illness or an accident. On top of that, people should receive a certain number of vaccinations throughout their lives, which immunize them against partly life-threatening diseases. Medical centers are putting a lot of effort into finding treatments against certain types of cancer, for example, as cancer is one of the most feared illnesses which more and more people suffer from these days.
To develop these vaccinations, research centers all around the world study the mechanisms in the human immune system. On the level of molecular biology, scientists have made progress in learning about antibody reactions – that is, the reactions of the immune system to infections with bacteria and viruses.
One specific antibody for a particular antigen
Throughout a lifetime, every individual suffers from infections of various kinds – be it a cold, a fever, or the flu. During the disease, the body develops antibodies against all the germs responsible for the illnesses. The cells have a memory which is activated as soon as the same virus tries to occupy the body again, and it can fight the invader faster so that the disease cannot break out. In other words, the body has become immune.
It is essential to know, however, that the antibody, which is a protein structure produced by the b cells, only recognizes one specific antigen structure which it can neutralize. Since bacteria and viruses can change, the immune system is challenged anew with every single germ. With the help of a special kit for ELISA assays, scientists can study specific antigen-antibody reactions and thus to develop vaccine cocktails against diseases. This practical working method also leads to new results for therapies for people who were unlucky and caught the virus before the immunization. Especially older people profit from these vaccines, as their immune defense is usually weaker and more susceptible to infections.