Billions of B-Cells

On We Beasties, Kevin Bonham tells us all his thoughts on GoD—the Generation of Diversity that enables B-cells “to make antibodies that recognize almost any chemical structure that has ever existed or will ever exist.” By recombining three essential pieces of an antibody (with 100, 30, and 6 variants respectively), using enzymes to slice up DNA and stitch it back together, and owing to a little extra variation from our parents and a dash of random nucleotides, B-cells can fabricate about 10 billion different antibodies to intercept viruses, bacteria, and other intruders. On ERV, Abbie tells us that the same antibody can come in five different forms, or isotypes, that fill functional niches in a total immune response. Abbie writes, “Because your immune system is mindless […] this ends up generating a lot of waste, like many evolved systems.” But “it also means youve got a lot of bases covered when you are exposed to a new pathogen.”

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