What is the relationship between antigen and antibody and how does that relationship influence hemolysis?
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An antigen is any substance which can provoke an immune response in the body. This immune response results in the production of antibodies, which are immunoglobulin proteins, and which are usually made by immune cells known as plasma cells. The antibodies may float free in the blood plasma, or they may be attached to the outer surfaces of white blood cells known as lymphocytes.
Hemolysis is the lysing (bursting) of red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes. It can happen as a response to several different bacteria and parasites, as well as to the antigen/antibody reaction.
Hemolytic disease of the newborn is the commonest manifestation of hemolysis due to antibodies. It occurs when an Rh postitive infant is born to an Rh negative mother who has Rh antibodies as a result of a previous pregnancy. The maternal antibodies can pass through the placenta and attack the baby's erythrocytes, causing issues that range from mild to very severe.
There is a drug called RhoGam that can be administered to Rh negative women to prevent them from forming anti-Rh antibodies. Since the development of this drug, hemolytic disease of newborns has become much less common.
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