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Function of Lymph Nodes: Lymph Nodes are located at anatomical locations where they are most able to receive immunological signals from around the body. There is not an exact number of how many lymph nodes you have in the body but it is likely to be hundreds. Each node is well supplied by lymphatic and blood vessels which allow lymphocytes to enter and exit. Lymph nodes are contained within a tough capsule and surrounded by specialised fatty deposits which give some physical protection but not that much. Lymph nodes filter and trap antigens which is a portion of a virus or bacteria that causes an immune response to arrive at the lymph nodes from the lymphatic vessels and the bloodstream.
Function of the Lymphocyte cells in the immune system: These cells are divided into T cells and B cells. T- lymphocytes are processed by the thymus gland and is responsible for cellular immunity which is the recruitment of other white blood cells to fight infection. B-lymphocytes receive their name from the Bursa of Fabricius which is the area in a bird’s intestines where these lymphocytes are processed. This area does not exist in other animals and most B cells are found in the bone marrow of animals. B-lymphocytes are responsible for making antibodies that are the proteins used to fight infections and foreign materials. Both of these cells are found throughout the body.
Function of the tonsils: The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and they are comprised of lymphatic tissue. Each tonsil is located at the back of the throat on either side. Tonsils are of equal size and are pink in colour and are covered in small deep depressions called crypts. Each set of tonsils is made up of three types. The main function of tonsils is to serve as the first line of defence in the immune system and this is accomplished in many ways. The tonsils trap harmful inhaled bacteria and produce lymphocytes to destroy the microorganisms before they can reach the lungs.
Function of the spleen: The spleen is located in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. The spleen has five main functions which is to produce certain blood cells and is the major site outside the bone marrow where red blood cells are made. The spleen is a storage site for red cells and platelets which are clotting elements. The body has the ability to contract the spleen suddenly if additional red blood cells are needed in the bloodstream. The spleen removes old or abnormal blood cells and particles from the blood so that new and normal blood cells and particles are in the blood. The spleen traps and removes old cells, bacteria and foreign proteins from the circulation and it is part of the body’s complicated immune system.
Function of bone marrow: Marrow consists of connective tissue, the cells of which form a delicate meshwork within the marrow cavity. The marrow cavity is located in the centre of several bones in the body particularly in the long bones. The main function of bone marrow is to generate blood cells. Bone marrow consists of two main types of stem cells which are hematopoietic stem cells found in red marrow and these are responsible for the production of blood cells and bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells that produce the non- blood cell components of marrow which include fat,cartilage, fibrous connective tissue which is found in tendons and ligaments and stromal cells that support blood formation and bone cells. The haematopoietic cells produce the vast majority of blood cells in the body. In young animals this occurs in most bones in the body but in mature adults this is limited to membranous bones in the body. In some primates, bone marrow acts as a primary lymphoid organ. Bone marrow is also a secondary lympoid tissue in other species. It has little involvement in the primary immune response but the migration of memory cells into the marrow from the spleen and lymph nodes means that during a subsequent exposure to an antigen, it produces significant amounts of antibodies.
Function of the thymus: The mammalian thymus has two lobes and located slightly above the heart and below the trachea. The thymus gland is the largest in a young animal as they are still developing their immune system as it is the most active but when an animal reaches sexual maturity, it begins to degenerate and is quite small in older animals. The thymus plays a key role in the maturation of prothymocytes into mature T cells. In young and maturing animals, the thymus produces a significant number of new T lymphocytes but as the animal matures this production decreases and the number of T cells is maintained by the dividing of mature T cells. Despite the Thymus shrinking after puberty in animals, it continues to function as an endocrine gland during adulthood. It produces the hormone thymosin which stimulates the activity of the T lymphocytes.
Function of white blood cells: A variety of white blood cells exist and each has a special function within the immune system. Some are designed to react primarily to bacteria and inflammation whilst others react more to parasites and foreign material in the body and others assist lymphocytes in producing antibodies.
Function of antibodies: Antibodies are specialised serum proteins that are produced by B cells in response to antigens. Antibodies are also called immunoglobulins. The body produces several types of immunoglobulins.
Types of immunity in animals: The immune system in animals can be divided into two parts based on how specific their functions are. These divisions are called the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is something that all living organisms have e.g. for dogs and cats, their innate immune system is their skin and for a bacterium it would be the cellular wall around it. The innate immune system is the first line of defence and it is non-specific meaning that it is designed to keep everything out and it also non-adaptive which means that its effectiveness is not changed by repeated exposure to a foreign substance. In addition to an animal having skin, stomach acid and mucous in the respiratory system and special chemicals in the saliva are part of the innate immune system.
There are certain cells in the body called phagocytes and includes cells called monocytes abd macrophages and these cells will eat anything in sight that is foreign. In addition to having an innate system, animals including dogs and cats have an adaptive immune system. The adaptive system defends the body against specific foreign invaders designing different tactics for different invaders. Parts of the adaptive system communicate with each other and develop a memory of the various invaders they encounter.
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