How Genetics Plays a Role in Our Immune System
We think of almost every part of our body as being a result of our genetics. Everything from out hair color to our height, or to our intelligence can be tracked back to our DNA. But we rarely think about the role our genes play in our ability to fight off diseases. However, our immune system, just like all the other parts of our body, is a product of our genetics.
The effects of genetics on your immune system’s strength have not been studied very deeply. However, a group of researchers from around the world recently took on the task. They analyzed blood samples taken from 1,629 Sardinians and looked at around 8.2 million different genetic combinations.
In order to understand the study you must first understand that the immune system has two basic parts: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system consists of protective barriers such as skin, mucus, specific cells and molecules that guard against germs. On the other hand, the adaptive immune system is a system that prompts the body to respond to an invader in a way that is specific to the pathogen.
After a significant amount of analysis the team discovered 89 gene variants and 53 locations in the DNA that seemed to play a part in making cells in the immune system. Which means that changes in your DNA may be affecting how robust and ready to fight your immune system is. Unsurprisingly, many of these genes were also found to play a role in various autoimmune diseases.
This new understanding of the immune system is exciting for a number of reasons. But one in particular is that it suggests the possibility of a future where medical treatment is tailored based on a specific genetic understanding of an individual’s immune system.