Pathology dictionary

What is an immunoglobulin?

Immunoglobulins are a special type of protein made by plasma cells. Immunoglobulins protect our body by sticking to bacteria and viruses, which makes them easier to remove from the body. Immunoglobulins can also stick to abnormal cells or cells that have stopped functionally normally.

Immunoglobulins are made up of four parts and each part is called a chain. One immunoglobulin is made up of two heavy chains and two light chains. There are five different kinds of heavy chains, called A, G, D, E, M, and two different kinds of light chains, called kappa and lambda. Any combination of heavy and light chains can be used to make an immunoglobulin. These options allow your body to produce many different kinds of immunoglobulins (for example IgA kappa, IgG lambda, etc.).

While the immune system has the ability to make many different kinds of immunoglobulins, each plasma cell makes just one kind of immunoglobulin. Because our immune system makes millions of different plasma cells, it is normal to find many different kinds of immunoglobulins in the body at any time.

A plasma cell neoplasm is a type of cancer that makes large amounts of immunoglobulins. The immunoglobulins can be found in the blood or urine.

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