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The Adaptive Immune System

The adaptive immune system can be considered as the more educated line of defense. It has more knowledge of the world and is adapted to fighting against specific foreign invaders.

The following are the unique characteristics of the adaptive immune response:

  • Learns from experience and records events
    If we think of the innate immune system as the ambulance, the adaptive immune system is like the hospital. It has an excellent memory which records every important encounter and is able to perform very specific operations.
  • Much slower then the innate immunity
    It’s high level of intelligence does come at a cost though, which is a much slower response time. For example, if the innate immune response is activated within seconds of an encounter, the adaptive immune system can take days (or even weeks) to develop it’s response.
  • Begins to work more effectively over time
    The adaptive immune response isn’t always slow. Since it’s able to learn and memorize encounters, it begins working more efficiently over time. This allows it to respond much faster against foreign invaders/substances (antigens) it has previously encountered.

Adaptive immunity develops over time
The adaptive immune system isn’t actually present at birth, but instead it has to develop over time. It learns from each encounter and records relevant information for future use.

Because of it’s more advanced tactics and longer response times, the adaptive immune system doesn’t always need to activate. If the innate immune system can adequately deal with the issue at hand, there is not need for adaptive immunity to kick into gear.

Section Outline

The next two sections briefly examine the way in which adaptive immunity responds to threats and the different responses it can mount. The discussion is broken down as follows:

  1. Two Different Approaches
    Compares the two major components of the adaptive immune response
  2. The Complement System
    Introduces another vital component of both adaptive and innate immunity

Though the discussion doesn’t go into too much detail, it aims to provide an overall understanding of how the adaptive immune system functions. And since some of the literature on seborrheic dermatitis suggests potential links to adaptive immunity [1, 2, 3], this understanding may prove quite relevant.


  1. M E Parry, G R Sharpe "Seborrhoeic dermatitis is not caused by an altered immune response to Malassezia yeast." The British journal of dermatology 139.2 (1999): 254-63. PubMed
  2. Aditya K Gupta, S E Madzia, Roma Batra "Etiology and management of Seborrheic dermatitis." Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland) 208.2 (2004): 89-93. PubMed
  3. Asja Prohic "Distribution of Malassezia species in seborrhoeic dermatitis: correlation with patients’ cellular immune status." Mycoses 53.4 (2010): 344-9. PubMed
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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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