In a modern and civilized society, health and well-being are two of the most vital values. In order to protect them, every individual is advised to care for a balanced nutrition, to exercise, and to have insurances which 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 in finding vaccinations 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.
In order 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 one specific antigen
Throughout a lifetime, every individual suffers from infections of various kinds – be it a cold, a fever or the flu. During the infection, 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 germ tries to occupy the body again, and it is able to fight the invader faster so that the disease cannot break out. In other words, the body has become immune.
It is important to know however that the antibody, which is a protein structure produced by the b cells, only recognizes one specific antigen structure which it is able to neutralize. Since bacteria and viruses have the capacity to change, the immune system is challenged anew with every single germ. With the help of a special kit for ELISA assays scientists are able to study certain antigen-antibody reactions and thus to develop vaccine cocktails against diseases. This effective 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.