Glossary

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

A disease of the immune system that renders the body unable to effectively fight infection.


Amino Acids

Chemical compounds used to build proteins.


Antibody

A protein made by B-cells and plasma cells, used to destroy antigens held captive at the surface of a macrophage.


Antigen

A protein on the surface of a virus or bacteria. The Immune System perceives antigens as an enemy, triggering an immune response to defend the body from the virus or bacteria.


Antigen Specificity

The Immune System’s ability to mount a targeted defense against the over ten million different antigens that are capable of attacking the human body. The Immune System recognizes each of these antigens as unique and responds uniquely to each one.


B-Cell

A special white blood cell, made in the bone marrow, that produce antibodies. B-cells later transform into even more powerful plasma cells.


Bone Marrow

Contents of bone cavities that produces red and white blood cells. White blood cells are the key players in the body’s Immune System.


Carbohydrates

The stored form of sugars the human body uses to produce energy.


CD4 Receptor

A unique receptor protein on the surface of the T-4 helper cell. The HIV attaches to this receptor protein to attack the T-4 helper cell.


Coronary Arteries

Vessels that supply blood to the heart.


Cytotoxic T-Cells

Special type of white blood cells that destroys foreign antigens. Must be in close proximity to the antigens to accomplish their task.


Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)

Genetic code found in the nucleus of every cell, that directs the activities of each cell, and hence the activities of the entire organism.


ENV

The surface proteins on the outer coat of the HIV that target the protein receptors on the T-4 helper cell.


Enzyme

A complex protein that directs and facilitates a specific chemical reaction, without itself being changed.


Epitope

Another term for an antigen that provokes an immune response.


Fats

Stored triglycerides that reside in all cells, neccesary for cell activity and function. Excess triglycerides are stored in special fat cells that accumulate in various parts of the body known as adipose tissue.


Foam Cell

The name given to a macrophage as it attacks fat within the coronary arteries. The fat accumulates within the foam cell cytoplasm giving it a bubbly appearance, hence its name.


Gene

A segment of DNA that produces a specific protein that performs a particular purpose.


GP-120 and GP-41

Two portions of the ENV in the HIV virus.


HAART

Highly Active Anti-Retro Viral Therapy The name given to aggressive treatment of HIV.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

The virus that causes AIDS.


Immunoglobulin

Another name for an antibody. A large complex protein used in the body’s immune response.


Immunoglobulin G (IGG)

Another antibody made by the Immune System; made after IGM, but more powerful.


Immunoglobulin M (IGM)

The first antibody made by the Immune System when attacked by an antigen (enemy invader).


Immunological Memory

The memory that the Immune System uses to remember how it attacked and destroyed a foreign antigen in the past. Because of this memory, subsequent attacks by the same antigen will result in an immune response one thousand times more efficient and aggressive.


Inner Coat

A second layer of protection for the HIV, made of fat and proteins, protecting the HIV inner core.


Inner Core

The HIV genetic code that provides the HIV the information and tools it needs to be an effective antigen to the human Immune System.


Integrase

One of the three enzymes needed for HIV to take control of the T-4 helper cell’s genetic code.


Interleukin 2

A chemical messaging system used to facilitate communication between the T-4 helper cells and the rest of Immune System defenses.


Lysosomes

Powerful chemical compounds stored in many of the white blood cells of the Immune System. They are highly effective against enemy antigens.


Macrophage

(Greek for “big eater”) A special white blood cell whose primary function is intelligence gathering. It works with the other cells in the Immune System by capturing foreign antigens, processing them internally, and presenting them to the T-4 helper cell for further analysis. Macrophages are also capable of destroying antigens.


Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)

A group of six different genes responsible for the proteins on the surface of every nucleated cell in the human body. These surface proteins are unique; no two individuals share the same protein structures unless they are identical twins. They play a critical role in the Immune System, and also in the compatibility of transplanted organs.


Outer Coat

The protective coat found on the HIV.


Phagocytosis

The process used by the macrophage to capture a foreign antigen for internal analysis.


Phagosome

The container inside the macrophage that holds the foreign antigen for analysis.


Plasma Cell

A highly specialized cell that results from the transformation of a B-cell. More powerful than a B-cell, it can create over two thousand antibodies per second.


Pneumocystis Pneumonia

A fungus that lives in the lungs of most people without causing problems, held in check by a normally functioning Immune System. When the Immune System is destroyed by HIV/AIDS, the fungus breaks free and causes pneumonia, severe lung infection.


Protease

An enzyme within the inner core of the HIV, which gives the HIV the ability to take over the T-4 helper cell. The T-4 helper cell is sacrificed to manufacture more HIV cells.


Retrovirus

A virus that stores its genetic information as RNA, but translates it back to DNA before replicating. This process is the reverse of the usual and requires a special viral enzyme called Reverse Transcriptase. HIV is one example of a retrovirus.


Reverse Transcriptase

The enzyme in the core of the HIV required for capture of a T-4 helper cell.


Ribonucleic Acid (RNA)

A nucleic acid found in the nucleus and cytoplasm of a cell, responsible for production of protein and for transcription and translation.


Ribosome

The “manufacturing plant” in living cells, producing protein. Most cells contain hundreds of ribosomes.


T-4 Helper Cell

Protozoan infection of the brain in patients with advanced HIV/AIDS.


T-Cell

White blood cell made in the bone marrow. Its main function is tactical command and execution of Immune System operations.


Thymus

A gland near the heart where T-Cells, made in the bone marrow, mature and undergo “thymic education”. The thymus disappears at puberty.


Variable Portion

That part of an antibody that makes it unique. It is used to lock a specific antigen and destroy it.


Virus

An obligate parasite that thrives and reproduces by infecting other cells and taking over that cell’s manufacturing and reproductive machinery. Viruses have their own genetic material but cannot survive without a host.