Issue 21 | January 2015

Pollen allergen

Immune System

The immune system is what keeps us healthy in spite of the many organisms and substances that can do us harm. In this issue, explore how our bodies are designed to prevent potentially harmful objects from getting inside, and what happens when bacteria, viruses, fungi or other foreign organisms or substances breach these barriers.

What’s it all about?

Immune system by numbers infographic

A snapshot of immunity and allergy

Animation: Developing immunological memory

Watch or download our animation, which shows how the levels of antibodies change during the specific (adaptive) immune response

Poster: The immune response

Get to grips with the immune response with our poster, free to download or order

Staying alive

What’s the immune system for?

Know thyself

How does the immune system know you’re you?

Defences down

Different factors can suppress our immune systems

Measured responses

The immune system can overreact

A tale of two diseases

The immune system is involved in both types of diabetes

That’s disgusting!

Disgust helps protect us from disease and illness

Invasion and infection

Know your enemy

Our bodies are homes to millions of organisms

Ways in

Barriers help protect our insides from outside

Going viral

How diseases spread

Second-line defences

The innate immune system gets to work fast

Out of sight

Some infections are with us for life

Cold or flu?

People sometimes confuse these very different viruses

Bacterium and virus images

Microbes are all around us, and some can cause illness or disease. Get up close with some viruses and bacteria in this gallery of nine images

Allergen and parasite images

Browse these 20 images to explore some of things that might get up your nose, into your blood or even make your gut their home

Case study: TB

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis

The specific immune response

Animation: Developing immunological memory

Watch or download our animation, which shows how the levels of antibodies change during the specific (adaptive) immune response

Getting into specifics

B cells and T cells give us an immunological memory

Present and correct

Antigen recognition is a key part of the immune response

Appliance of antibodies

We can exploit the ability of antibodies to bind to a specific antigen

Antibodies attack

Antibodies are specialised proteins that bind to antigens

Rejection

Organ donation requires a good match between donor and recipient

Immune response images

Explore some of the cells, molecules and technologies associated with the body’s immune response in these ten images

Immune response component images

Explore the 18 different cells and molecules of the immune system as shown in the Immune System magazine and poster

Building immunity

Long-term protection

There are several different types of immunity

A shot in the arm

Vaccines come in different forms

Outbreak

How can science keep up with Ebola?

Underexposure

Is being exposed to dirt good for you?

Investigating immunotherapy

New therapies are looking to use the immune system directly

Nine facts about pregnancy and the immune system

Why aren’t fetuses rejected? How can pregnancy help certain conditions? How does breastfeeding help the baby? And more...

Swallow your pride

Can parasites help treat autoimmune disease?

Vaccines: how and when are they given?

Rob Reddick explores how vaccines are designed to work most effectively in the body

Vaccines: what’s inside?

What goes into vaccines, and why

Vaccines: how well do they work, and are they safe?

The facts about vaccines

Ethical questions

Vaccination: who decides?

Personal choice and public safety may clash

Organ donation: whose consent?

A potential donor’s wishes may not be known – read through the background information and decide whether you agree with presumed consent

Infectious disease research: what’s allowed?

Keeping deadly viruses secure in the lab

Case study: TB

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Real Voices interviews

Real Voices interview: Brittany Elce

Meet Brittany, a sixth-form student who has Crohn’s disease

Real Voices interview: Ann Lee Hussey

Meet Ann, a volunteer with Rotary International working on polio immunisation campaigns

Real Voices interview: Bobby Gaspar

Meet Bobby, a paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Video: Living with early-onset arthritis

Meet Charlotte, a young mother with severe rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that attacks an individual’s joints

Historical aspects

The history of vaccination

Jenner, vaccines and Blossom the cow

The history of germ theory

Germ theory and two of the scientists behind it: Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch

The history of blood types

What are blood types, and why are they important?

The history of antibodies

Experiments that led to the discovery of antibodies

The history of the major histocompatibility complex

How we came to discover the MHC

Infectious disease in history images

Get a taste of how infectious diseases and research have been thought about historically with these eight images.

Activities and lesson ideas

Guess Which Immune Component! game

Our card game is the perfect way to revise the roles of the different cells and proteins that make up the human immune system

Lesson idea: Design a poster for poo transplants

It might be hard to imagine, but researchers are examining the potential for poo transplants in treating a number of conditions including bacterial gut infections

Immune system by numbers infographic

A snapshot of immunity and allergy

Additional lesson ideas for ‘Big Picture: Immune System’

Here are more ways to use our issue in the classroom

Further resources and activities on the immune system

The Wellcome Trust has funded other organisations to produce the following activities and resources related to understanding the immune system

Fast Facts

Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.

Browse through all of our Fast Facts indexed by topic