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    The AtlanticKatherine J. Wu4/22/219 min
    3 reads2 comments
    The Atlantic
    3 reads
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    • DellwoodBarker
      Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
      5 days ago

      The way this is written is Really Well Crafted. The style turns the immune system/antibody breakdown into a kind of dating game/astrological reading kind of read.

      Very interesting and creative.

      For example:

      The real keepers belong to the adaptive branch of the immune system: B cells—the makers of antibodies—and T cells, which, among many other tasks, kill virus-infected cells. Adaptives are slow-moving specialists. They take down microbial invaders that innate cells can’t handle on their own, relying heavily on intel from macrophages, dendritic cells, and other early defenders. They won’t be the first to make a move, but they’re sharp and sophisticated, capable of singling out individual pathogens and zapping them with precision. B and T cells are self-assured enough to know what they want. Unlike innate cells, they’re also capable of remembering the things they’ve encountered before, ensuring that most pathogens can’t trouble the same person twice; that capacity is the conceptual basis of vaccines. “They do a great job at committing things to memory,” Ryan McNamara, a virologist at UNC Chapel Hill, told me. That also means no missed birthdays or anniversaries—and no chance they’ll ever forget that time you were wrong.

      If you’re a fan of antibodies, you have B cells to thank: They are the glorious wellsprings whence these molecules hail. (On Mother’s Day, antibodies call their B cells.) Unfortunately, B cells are often overlooked; as living, dividing cells that hide away in tissues, they’re harder to isolate and study than the proteins they produce. But the antibodies they deploy can be powerful enough to quash microbes before they break into cells, potentially halting infections in their tracks. And even after antibodies disappear, B cells persist, ready to produce more.

      Martinez stans the B cells he studies. But he’s wary of their romantic potential. B cells, he said, are almost too good at their job, and will compete aggressively among themselves. Their crime-fighting careers consume them, leaving little room for a fulfilling personal life. “I would say B cells are selfish,” he told me. In the cold light of morning, it turns out a lot of them are just self-involved snobs.

    • Ruchita_Ganurkar
      1 week ago

      It’s easy to see the appeal of antibodies. They’re among the few immune-system soldiers that can annihilate viruses before they enter cells, and they’re thought to be crucial to most vaccines. They can also be team players, throwing up red flags around microbes in order to alert other defenders to their presence.