Hiya, Poptropicans! If you haven’t already read the first part to this series, make sure to go check it out! As a disclaimer once again: I’m not an expert in this area, but rather I’m an Animal Science student who would like to share some things I’ve learned! Anyway, let’s pick up where we left off…
Ah yes, if viruses are so hard to fight, then what do we do? We use vaccines! The most popular form of vaccine includes a very weak form of the virus that your body can destroy easily, while preparing for any future attacks. This is called an “artificially acquired active immunity.” Let’s break this down: it’s artificially acquired because you don’t get the virus naturally; it’s injected into you by your choice. It’s an active immunity, which means that your body will produce very specialized antibodies to fight the virus, along with lymphocytes (these are part of your immune system, or the system in your body that fights disease). Once you get a vaccine, you’re protected really well! Again, the only reason the flu vaccine is only partially effective is because the flu mutates, so there are a bunch of different kinds to fight.
The next section is the tutorial, and all I can say is…oof. This image is completely, 100% inaccurate. Viruses are much, MUCH smaller than your body’s red blood cells (the cells that transport oxygen). And okay, you say, well this is a game, not real life! That’s true, but the fact viruses are so tiny is vital to how they work and how to understand them. With normal microscopes, you can’t even see them at all. As mentioned in the previous post, viruses have to live and use your cells to survive – they are “obligate intracellular parasites.” Many viruses can be contained in one cell, so for a virus to be bigger than a cell doesn’t make sense. Plus, there’s not much of an excuse for Poptropica to do this. The island would also be super cool with the player being tiny and fighting viruses within cells themselves. It could teach about cell parts, along with the immune system!
Next, you enter the patient’s body, which is the main setting of the island. Once you enter the arm, white blobs start attacking you and scatter your ship’s parts. I’m guessing these are meant to represent white blood cells, but again, the proportions are all wrong. White blood cells, which is pretty vague, range from 9,000 to 18,000 nanometers. Red blood cells are around 10,000 nanometers. The rhinovirus, or the virus that causes the “common cold,” is only about 30 nanometers. This means a white blood cell could be 600 times the size of a virus. It would be HUGE. So, why are white blood cells so big? What exactly is a white blood cell? Well, here’s a little lesson about the immune system!
The immune system is very complicated, and there are tons of different components. One of the main parts of the immune system includes phagocytes, which are white blood cells that essentially “eat” other cells. These engulf harmful cells and break them down, so they have to be big to do so! Another main part of the immune system are lymphocytes, another type of white blood cell, which have a specific response to different harmful cells, or pathogens. These consist of T cells, which are divided into three main types that help kill the pathogen, and B cells, which make antibodies. Antibodies recognize and bind to the pathogen, in turn also helping destroy it. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the immune system!
Now, I am a little skeptical about the immune system immediately attacking the machine you’re in. Although our immune system is very smart, there are plenty of people out there that safely have metal implants and other medical devices in their body. Plus, I find it unlikely they’d send you in a machine that would trigger an immune response (while the immune system seems to be ignoring the virus)! However, an explanation could be that this patient may have something called hypersensitivity. This means they have an allergic response to the metal in your ship, or their immune system sees something that’s normally harmless as dangerous. This could result in further sickness and asthma. This, folks, is yet another reason why there’d be no secret mission to enter Joe Stockman!
The rest of the island, besides the anatomy, is basically a repeat of what I’ve already touched on. I’ll stop here, but there’s still plenty left I could discuss! If you have any questions or ideas for further discussion of the island, comment below!
-Silver Wolf 🐺