Immune Health

Immune Health Glossary.

Not a health expert? Not a problem. This glossary of clinical terms will help you understand the basics of the human immune system.

Acquired (Adaptive) immune system – also called acquired immunity, uses specific antigens to start an immune response strategically. Much slower to respond than the innate immune system, it is activated by exposure to pathogens and uses memory to learn and enhance the immune response accordingly.

Antibody – are protein molecules secreted by immune system cells that help the body fight foreign challenges such as bacteria or viruses. Each antibody-producing cell makes a single, unique antibody that is classified under one of 5 major classes – IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM.

B cells – one of two types of lymphocytes that are responsible for the adaptive immune response. B cells have two main functions in adaptive immunity; to secrete antibodies and to help activate other cells of the immune system to defend the body.

Beta glucan – polymer of glucose (sugar) molecules attached in a specific conformation. Beta glucans are naturally found in foods such as baker’s yeast, shiitake mushrooms, and cereal grains, like barley, oats, rye, and wheat.

Complement – a system of proteins that are present in blood that acts together to defend the body against pathogens.

CR3 receptors – protein on the surface of many immune cells including neutrophils which when bound to Wellmune or baker’s yeast beta-glucan helps to prime the neutrophils to respond to health challenges.

Complement Receptor –  a protein on the surface of a cell that binds to activated complement proteins.

Dendritic cells – cells whose primary function is to show (present) small parts of potential pathogens to other immune cells to activate the body’s defenses.

Hygiene Hypothesis – as described in Janeway’s Immunobiology 9th Ed., “a hypothesis first proposed in 1989 that reduced exposure to ubiquitous environmental microorganisms was a cause of the increased frequency of patients with allergies observed over the course of the mid- to late-20th century.”

Immune response – action taken by the body to defend against a potential pathogen.

Immune system – The tissues, cells, and molecules involved in innate immunity and adaptive immunity. (Janeway’s Immunobiology, 9th Ed.)

Immunonutrition – “potential to modulate the activity of the immune system by interventions with specific nutrients” (Calder PC, BMJ 2003;327:117)

Immunosuppression – physiological state of the immune system in which immune response is greatly diminished or absent.

Innate immune cells – The three primary phagocytic cells of the innate immune system are granulocytes (includes neutrophils), macrophages, and dendritic cells.

Innate immune system – one of two parts of the immune system, characterized by a rapid and broad response to infections with no “memory” when the same infection is encountered.

Lymphocyte cells – cellular components of the adaptive immune system including B and T cells.

M-Cells – cells located in the immune tissue of the intestines which are specialized to continuously sample the contents of the intestines in order to alert the body to potential pathogens.

Macrophage – cells important in both innate and adaptive immunity that engulf potentially infectious agents and trigger innate and adaptive immune responses.

Natural killer (NK) cells – a type of immune cell which can kill virally-infected cells directly, generally not thought to have a memory function and are considered part of the innate immune system.

Neutrophil – a type of immune cell that is the major effector cell type in the innate immune system. Neutrophils kill microorganisms by engulfing them and digesting them with enzymes and chemicals.

Oxidative burst – method through which some cells of the innate immune system, including neutrophils, produce anti-microbial chemicals.

Peyer’s Patches – areas in the intestines that contain a grouping of many different types of immune cells, which is essential for initiation and regulation of immune responses.

Phagocyte – any immune cell that can engulf (“eat”) another cell (includes neutrophils).

Prime – to make ready for action without complete activation of an immune response.

T-Cells – one type of lymphocyte cell that is part of the adaptive immune system. The two main types of T cells are helper and killer T cells. Helper T cells are responsible for helping B cells to produce antibody. Killer T cells are responsible for killing cells infected with viruses and other intracellular pathogens.

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