What Is Cellular Immunology?

Steven Symes

Cellular immunology is the study of the cells and molecules of an organism’s immune system. The field involves studying how those different cells and molecules work together to provide a defense against different types of pathogens. To better understand cellular immunology, researchers study both healthy immune systems and those that are actively fighting off pathogens, comparing the differences and similarities of how the immune system’s cellular physiology operates.

The poor functioning or malfunctioning of an immune system at the cellular level is a topic of study in cellular immunology.
The poor functioning or malfunctioning of an immune system at the cellular level is a topic of study in cellular immunology.

The poor functioning or malfunctioning of an immune system at the cellular level is also a topic of study in cellular immunology. Topics of study include cellular deficiencies in the immune system, including patients who have diseases that lower immune system response such as HIV or AIDS. Cellular immunologists also study immune system hypersensitivities to environmental factors, like allergies or asthma. How autoimmune disease — when a body’s immune system attacks various tissue cells in conditions such as diabetes — works is another topic of study in cellular immunology. Researchers also study on the cellular level why some organ transplants are rejected by people’s immune systems.

An immunology specialist may diagnose and treat allergies.
An immunology specialist may diagnose and treat allergies.

Those who study cellular immunology look at both innate immune system responses as well as adaptive immune system responses. Innate immune system responses are the body’s first line of defense against infection, with defense mechanisms that are employed for all types of infections. Adaptive immune system responses are the body’s second line of immune system defenses, and use cells that perform specific functions to rid the body of infections. These specific functions of these immune system cells, such as T cells and B cells, involve the defense-oriented cells remembering past infections so it can respond with faster and stronger measures later.

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Cancer and how it grows in a person’s body is also covered by cellular immunology. The spread of cancer through a person’s body occurs at a cellular level, since cancer entails different body tissues’ cells growing uncontrollably. Cellular immunologists look for ways to harness the functions of the body’s immune system to prevent or stop the spread of cancer through body tissues.

Factors that affect cellular immunology are also studied by researchers. For example, the age of a person can affect his immune system’s functionality on the cellular level. Researchers study how environmental factors affect immune system response at a cellular level, such as whether a patient was exposed to certain pathogens early versus later in life, the effect of sanitary conditions on a person’s immune system and how genetics affect the immune system’s functionality at the cellular level.

Asthma is a hypersensitivity to environmental factors.
Asthma is a hypersensitivity to environmental factors.

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