Sunday, 24 April 2011

Understanding the Function of an Antibody

After going through the themes once again, I have decided that the best would be The Antibodies as it is  a child-friendly one. It should be explained in an easy, non complicated way to make it interesting for a youngster. Of course to depict how an antibody works, it is vital to understand its structure and purpose. This takes me back to Biology, which I studied in High School a couple of years ago back in Greece. For me it was awfully boring as we were forced to learn how the immune system works by heart. There was a great number of images showing all the body functions that were not interesting but dull and too science based. So that's what I am going to tackle in my animation: uninteresting imagery. So in this animation instead of text, which is something no one would be interested to read (let alone children), I am aiming to use narrative and make it work as storytelling. Of course this  narrative will be accompanied by colourful and eye-popping imagery which will automatically make it more attractive to the human eye. 

So in just one paragraph explaining what an antibody is:

  "An antibody is produced by the body to detect, combat, kill or eliminate any foreign body that enters our body. The foreign body can be dust, germs, chemicals, biological or non-biological material that is considered alien by the body. However the body can only produce an antibody when it is induced to produce it, and the simplest way to produce it is to introduce the foreign material in the body, and our body reacts by producing the antibody against the foreign material in due time."

I will try to explain the definition of an antibody as briefly as possible:

Structure: Antibodies are large Y-shaped proteins and made of typical structural Units-two large heavy chains and two small light chains. Both chains are connected with disulfide bridges. The antibodies' tips are different for each one called a paratope with a specific structure to attack a specific foreign target called an antigen. The tips' shapes are extremely variable which allows the antibodies to attack a large number of 
foreign bodies. 

How is it produced?  Antibodies are produced from Lympocytes (specified white cells) as a result of exposure to specific chemical substances. This is called the antibody-antigen reaction. So-called B-cell lymphocytes produce the antibodies, in response to T-cells (there are several sorts) which participate more directly in recognising the foreign cells, and chemically damaging them. The antibodies are transported around the body though the bloodstream as part of the plasma protein. 

How does it work?: As mentioned, the antibodies' tips can be found in various shapes. Each tip is designed for a specific antigen. The tips (paratopes) work like a lock for the antigens' tips (epitopes) which work like keys. These two structures bind together in precision attack or recognise the enemy. So the threatening viruses or bacteria can be eliminated in 2 ways: by marking the microbe for ingestion (by the phagocytes cells) or by forming a membrane to help the antibodies to kill the bacteria directly. 

How many types of Antibodies are there?: Antibodies can come into different types called IsotypesIn placental mammals there are five antibody isotypes known as IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM.The antibody isotype produced during an immune response usually depends on the type of microorganism which is invading the body.  

I have tried to explain the process as brief as possible. Of course there is a lot more to talk about but for young children, deeper explanations are superfluous. I want to make children understand how their body fights the 'bad guys' that invade them and pass them a message on how they should keep themselves clean and bacteria free. 

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