A macrophage is an important cell that acts as the first line of defense for our immune system. They are descendant from monocytes, otherwise known as white blood cells. A macrophage is considered to be the bottom feeder of white blood cells. It works by ingesting many cells and depending on what type of cell was ingested a certain chemical will be released. If the cell ingested was harmful to the body in some way it would cause the chemical secreted to alert the rest of the immune system that it’s time to defend the body. Macrophages are considered the first line of defense for our immune systems.
There have been many studies completed regarding macrophages. Scientists have been especially interested in how these bottom dwelling white blood cells can distinguish a harmless cell from a potential threat. The human body is intricately designed but no one individual’s system works entirely the way it should. Problems with rogue macrophages can lead to a variety of medical conditions. Defects in these white blood cells have been associated with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and are a contributing factor in organ rejection after a recent transplant. Sometimes a macrophage comes into contact with a cancerous cell that fools the blood cell into believing it is not harmful to the body. This allows the cancer cells to spread and remain under the radar of the immune system at least temporarily.
Study shows macrophages are the police officers of the immune system.
A study that was published in the 2008 March edition of the Journal of Cell Biology related the working of macrophages closely to that of a patrolling police officer. Occasionally people get pulled over and asked to present identification. If their record is clean then the police officer will have nothing to charge them with if they were not breaking the law at this time. This is very similar to the way a macrophage distinguishes a friendly cell from a potentially hazardous one.
The white blood cell begins by approaching an unknown cell within the body. The macrophage then connects with the cell and requests its identification in the form of a surface protein. The macrophage can recognize whether this protein is friendly or dangerous and act accordingly. If the surface protein is from a harmless cell then the macrophage will go about its business in the body and police another cell. If the surface protein of the foreign cell comes back as unknown or potentially harmful then the macrophage ingests the cell to get rid of it. There have been instances where the reading of a surface protein has been off in some way. This can either cause friendly cells to be ingested or harmful cells allowed to roam free in the body. Both of these cases can cause serious medical ramifications. Eliminating friendly white blood cells makes the body more susceptible to disease and illness while also creating its own auto-immune disease.
An auto-immune disease is one where the immune system basically views itself as the enemy and starts targeting and destroying needed cells. This is the case for certain viruses such as HIV. The immune system is weakened and it becomes very difficult to stop the spread of infection and keep the body healthy. This is why there have been multiple studies to try and determine what makes a macrophage defective and how can it be reversed.
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