BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Osmosis Jones: Fact vs. Fiction

 

The Cells of the Immune System
Photo from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Innate_Immune_cells.jpg

Osmosis Jones is the story of a white blood cell police officer, Ozzy, who teams up with a cold pill, Drix, to save Frank from a deadly virus. Of course being a children’s movie Osmosis Jones isn’t a completely accurate depiction of the human immune system, or body in general, but just how accurate is it?

In the movie the major conflict arises when Frank, the human, eats an unsanitary egg. On this egg lives the virus, Thrax, who is a deadly pathogen. So far the movie checks out. In the human immune system the first line of defense are barriers between the inside of the body and the outside world. Some of these barriers include the skin, mucus membranes, tears, saliva, sweat and stomach acid. In the movie the virus does penetrate one of these barriers, in this case the mouth, to enter the body. This is accurate to how a virus may enter the human body.

After this the movie becomes less and less accurate to how the human immune system functions. Although there is detection of a pathogen the only response Frank’s immune system has in the movie is through the use of the police force, the white blood cells. This is completely inaccurate to how the human body fights off a pathogen. When the body detects a pathogen (virus or bacteria) mast cells release histamines to dilate the blood vessels (this is never shown in the movie, especially because the blood vessels are shown as highways, but thats another matter altogether). The next step in the immune response is macrophages come and engulf infected and dead cells and they release cytokines that attract other immune cells to the area. Neutrophils and natural killer cells then kill the infected cells. The closest thing to this second line of defense is the police force and their communication. They have radios and ways to communicate to call for backup, although it is extremely inaccurate to the way the immune system really functions.

The third line of defense that the Human body uses is specific defense. This includes B and T cells and the steps taken to target the pathogen specifically and the infected cells. Through the processes of Cell-mediated response and Antibody-mediated response the immune system targets the infection and destroys it. Both of these processes are not depicted in the movie in any form. This along with the ending (don’t worry I won’t spoil it) are both inaccurate to anything that could happen in the human body.

So Osmosis Jones isn’t the most scientifically accurate movie of all time, but that doesn’t stop it from making a great movie. The inaccuracies in the film can be excused by the fact that it is a children’s movie and not a new theory about the immune system. I mean how many kids would want to sit though a movie that was 100% accurate? You would lose all of the car chases, the drama, the suspense, the mucus filled dams, and the explosions. Overall I really enjoy Osmosis Jones, although I don’t recommend using it to study for your next science test.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. thephilosopher

    Good article. I think that the inaccuracies in Osmosis Jones are excusable given the audience it is geared towards. Small children can’t be expected to sit through a detailed summary of the intricate processes involved in the immune system, and making the subject exciting will hopefully get kids interested in the science later on. Here’s an example of a kids’ website dedicated to the immune system that does a good job of explaining it: http://kidshealth.org/kid/cancer_center/HTBW/immune.html

    • Roger

      I disagree philosopher. This is October of 2821 and our nine year old Levi My wife Tammy and myself are watching this for the first time.
      I believe it’s a little more thought had been given to this movie that the bodies functions to fight illnesses could have resembled something very fast and furious. Unfortunately, that was lost on this movie but it was a lot of fun we thoroughly enjoyed it.fintruer

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