Groundhog Sees Shadow of His A & B Antibodies

February 2, 2011 at 10:07 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin’s Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

What does that mean?? Is there a blizzard coming? Cyclone? Mongoose? Groundhogs don’t even see very well so who knows why we rely on them to tell us about when Spring is coming. Best to look for when inexpensive daffodils show up at Trader Joe’s, or when your allergies start up again. Then you know pollen is in the air, and with pollen comes an increase in your anti-A and anti-B titers. Wonder why? It’s because our red blood cells (RBCs) are not the only things sporting A & B-like antigens on their surfaces. Other environmental antigens, similar enough to those little sugary ends of our RBCs, can show up in bacteria, pollen, and viruses and stimulate an immune response in us (plus other allergens). The groundhog knows the power of his antibodies and comes out every February 2nd to check them out to make sure not many foreign antigens get past his immune system this Spring.

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