The Immune System and Organ Transplant: What You Should Know

PD Medicine/Healthcare MHE 091 Thousands of people undergo organ transplant surgery each year and get a second chance to lead healthy lives. While there are risks involved in any surgery, those who undergo an organ transplant also face the possibility that their immune system will reject their new organ or that they will always be at a higher risk for infections. Fortunately, medical research has come a long way and now offers those in need of a new organ an even greater chance of successful recovery.

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is a complex biological system in the human body. It is made up of cells, tissues, and organs that work constantly to deal with infectious and other foreign materials, such as allergens or tumors, that may be harmful to the body. These materials carry antigens. The immune system is able to recognize the difference between cells that belong and those that do not by learning to identify protein markers (antigens) that are found on cell and infection surfaces. In people, the antigens or markers are referred to as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA). Antigens that are recognized as unfriendly invaders stimulate an immune response to destroy them. The immune system is made up of several types of white blood cells, called leukocytes, which each have their own function. White blood cells are made up of:
Type Function
Neutrophils Destroy bacteria and fungi
Eosinophils Destroy larger parasites; also involved in allergy-related inflammatory response
Basophils Release histamines, which produce an inflammatory response that help fight infection
Lymphocytes—the main defenders of the immune system B-cells release antibodies, and help activate T-cells

T-cells attack viruses and tumors
Monocytes Migrate in bloodstream and help T-cells with recognizing antigens that needs to be destroyed

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