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Name: Hehs
Status: Educator
Grade:  9-12
Location: IL
Country: United States
Date: July 2008

As a biology teacher at Hoffman Estates High School I asked my junior and senior students to fashion a question for the Ask A Scientist board. We are presently studying the immune system and my students want to know if there is any artificial or natural way in which to boost their immune systems? Can you help us with this concept?

Antioxidants like vitamin C & E would offer protection. Vitamin A strengthens mucus membranes to thwart invaders and enhance total resistance (not necessarily immunity). Being generally physically fit is a huge factor, but studies with professional athletes suggest a faster spread of viruses and other agents through their system. Ginseng, mineral springs (hormesis - low ionizing radiation stimulation), and other agents have not been proven beneficial scientifically. In general, if you minimize damage via UV and other radiation to the immune system, minimize the aging process, you will maximize your immune response. Since Louis Pasteur, we should not forget targeting specific immunity via vaccines. Also, bone marrow transplants will help those that are immunodeficient. It is hoped that biotechnology will produce antibodies and other agents to order, that will be the magic bullets against any immunoinvader.

Lou Harnisch

I was looking at the response to boosting one's immune system and I wonder if you would consider a couple of other options. The first is that there are some new biotechnology medicines coming out on market which are called Colony Stimulating Factors. These compounds will cause the bone marrow to produce more of certain kinds of white cells. White Blood Cells of course are the specific component of blood which fights infection. The second is perhaps irrelevant. When one takes antibiotics one is in effect boosting one's immune system, this applies whether the antibiotic is prophylactic or if the med is for an existing infection. Remember, an antibiotic cannot eliminate and infection without the aid of the bodies own immune system.


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