Use your DNA to get insight into your unique immune response.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare topics like immunity and immune health have taken center stage.
To date, nearly 4 million people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Additionally, on average millions of people per year suffer from the common cold, and nearly 40,000 Americans reported cases of the flu in 2020.
As you adjust to the pandemic conditions and consider the potentially harmful pathogens lurking in your environment, it’s natural to feel helpless and overwhelmed. It’s important to remember, though, that there are quite a few things you can do to prime your immune response and support your immune health so you’re in tip-top shape to ward off invaders if they come knocking.
To take the best precautions and stay safe, you’ll want to both support and understand your immune system.
Interestingly, your genetic profile consists of unique variants and markers that hold information about your own immune responses. In fact, your DNA can even help determine your predisposition to certain infectious diseases like influenza and acute respiratory infections.
Below, you’ll discover what the immune system is, how it works, and how scientists have proven the link between immune response and genetics.
What is the immune system and how does it work?
The immune system is the body’s biological defense system. It’s a whole army of defenders, and, just like any dedicated fleet, it’s hard at work all day and night. It’s your immune system’s job to protect you. It identifies, destroys, and expels viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other pathogens that pose a risk to your system.
In some cases, the immune system identifies the body’s own proteins as foreign invaders and mistakenly attacks them. This is called an autoimmune disorder.
While the immune system is made up of many complex parts, it has two main lines of defense that work together. They’re called the innate immune response and the adaptive immune response.
Innate immune response.
The innate (or non-specific) immune response is the first line of defense against pathogen invaders. It’s a multilayered system made up of numerous barriers, and its purpose is to immediately block pathogens from entering the body.
The innate immune response consists of physical barriers like skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and hair follicles (like eyelashes and body hair). It also contains other defense mechanisms like mucous, gastric acid, sweat, and tears. General immune responses such as inflammation are considered innate or non-specific immune responses, too. They’re called non-specific responses since they are catch-all defense strategies meant to keep all external threats from infecting the body.
Without the innate immune system, pathogens would easily infect your internal tissues and organs.
For example, if you touch the handle on a grocery store cart and accidentally pick up the flu virus, your skin stops the virus from reaching your bloodstream and getting you sick. But if there’s a breach in your skin, like a cut, then the virus can bypass the innate immune defense and get inside your body where it’s a higher threat and may cause damage.
Adaptive immune response.
The adaptive (or acquired) immune response is the second line of defense against pathogen invaders. The adaptive immune response is unique because it’s only found in vertebrates, and it’s specific to the invasive pathogen. In other words, the adaptive immune response targets each unique invader and deploys lymphocytes (also known as T and B cells) to begin the process of attacking the pathogen and disposing of it.
Unlike the innate immune response, the adaptive immune response is not immediate. This line of defense can take a few days to fully respond. Nonetheless, it’s an effective and efficient line of defense.
Once the adaptive immune system identifies, attacks, and fights off an invader, it stores memory of that invader in proteins called antibodies. When antibodies are present, the immune system is fully prepared to fight the invader again—and even more quickly and efficiently next time. This is an advanced and profound function, since it means the body is working dynamically and proactively to protect itself.
Immunological memory and vaccines.
Vaccination is possible because of the unique features of the adaptive immune response. A vaccine contains small parts of a pathogen, which allows the body to make antibodies specific to the invader and store memory of it.
For example, if you receive a vaccine for smallpox, your immune system responds by stimulating antibody-producing cells that make a fleet of smallpox antibodies. As a result, your body is immune and primed to fight if it encounters the smallpox pathogen. Ultimately, this lessens the threat of the pathogen.
Some pathogens are prone to variation and mutation, like the flu virus. Unfortunately, antibodies are extremely pathogen specific and cannot recognize pathogen mutations. This is why you have to get the flu shot every year. Each flu vaccine is engineered for the latest and most wide-spread influenza mutation of the given season.
- The immune system is made up of two main layers: the innate (or non-specific) immune response and the adaptive (or acquired) immune response.
- These defenses are responsible for preventing pathogens from entering the body, and destroying them if they do. Antibodies are pathogen-specific proteins that are produced naturally by the body when it’s exposed to an invader.
- Because of the unique abilities of the adaptive immune response and antibody production, the body is able to be vaccinated against (and become immune to) harmful diseases.
Your genetics can determine your immune response.
Like most biological structures in your body, your immune system and its responsiveness is partially determined by your genetic makeup. This is especially true when we consider the adaptive immune response and how our internal defenders interact with and react to pathogens.
A few years ago, Dr. Vinod Kumar, assistant professor of functional genomics and infectious diseases at University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, conducted a study to determine if genetic differences accounted for variable immune response in tested individuals. His team’s findings suggest that genetic components are indeed responsible for different immune responses across individuals. Dr. Kumar’s study helped determine that genetics play a big role in why two people can become infected with the same virus but only one falls seriously ill while the other recovers quickly.
In 2013, a team of international researchers led by Franceso Cucca, director of the National Research Council’s Institute of Genetic and Biomedical Research in Italy, discovered 89 independent gene variants that were linked to the genome associated with regulating the production of immune system cells. In other words, your genetic profile can impact how many fighters your body makes, which will in turn affect how capable and prepared you are to fight pathogen invaders.
In another study, this one conducted in 2017, Professor Tim Spector, Director of the Twins UK Registry at King’s College London, found that adaptive immune traits are mostly influenced by genetics. Of his findings, Professor Spector said: “Our results surprisingly showed how most immune responses are genetic, very personalized, and finely tuned. What this means is that we are likely to respond in a very individualized way to an infection (such as a virus) or an allergen (such as a house dust mite) that causes asthma. This may have big implications for future personalized therapy.”
DNA variations are linked to different immune responses, according to scientific studies.
Depending on your unique genotype, you could be predisposed to infectious diseases like influenza or acute respiratory infections.
These findings could form the basis of further research into treatments for various immune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
Protecting yourself and keeping your immune system healthy.
We encounter pathogens on a daily basis, but we don’t all defend ourselves against invaders in the same way. Some people experience mild symptoms, while others may become violently ill or need to be hospitalized.
Analyzing your DNA for markers that indicate immune response can alert you to your unique predispositions. For example, your DNA analysis may reveal that your genotype is associated with developing severe flu symptoms. This may encourage you to get the flu shot or double-up on supporting your immune system during flu season.
Of course, genetic markers are not the sole determinant of susceptibility. There are many factors that determine your unique ability to ward off pathogen invaders, including your environment, lifestyle choices, and exposure to pathogens.
When you know your unique genetic predispositions, you can support your immune system in the best way possible. In the meantime, be sure to eat nutrient-dense foods, get plenty of sleep, and stay hydrated.
Your immune system is impacted by both genetic and environmental factors.
Your DNA profile may indicate your predisposition to infectious disease.
When you know your genetic predispositions, you can make informed decisions about how to best support your immune system so you’re prepared to fight off invaders and stay healthy.
Knowledge is power. Get your FREE immune function report today.
It’s up to each of us to educate ourselves so that we can make empowered decisions about our health. Analyzing your DNA is the only way to uncover your unique immune system vulnerabilities. Let your genetics give you the information you need to protect yourself.
There are a number of free immune reports available online—and we’ve looked at them all. Endocanna Health’s immune function report is the most comprehensive report available to you, and it’s completely free.
The information in your report can help you take control of your health and make necessary changes to your lifestyle to mitigate any possible threats or risks to your immune system function.
In each of your individual Trait Reports, you’ll find:
- Identification of any relevant genotype you may possess that indicates predisposition to infectious disease,
- A summary of the relevant and critical research as it relates to your genetic predisposition,
- Assessment of your genetic variants based on relevant research, and
- Relevant Next Steps to support your immune strength and personal wellness goals.
It is possible to reclaim control and take back your power. Get actionable information you can use to protect yourself today.
To get your FREE immune function report, click here.
Be sure to share this link with your friends and loved ones so they can arm themselves with knowledge about their genetic predispositions and stay safe, too.
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