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March 14, 2010 at 3:08 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

What Are Macrophages And How Do They Affect Your Immune System?

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

What Are Macrophages?

Scientifically speaking, macrophages, "big eaters," are from the Greek, makros, which means large and phagein, which means eat. Macrophages originate from white blood cells, called monocytes. Together, monocytes and macrophages are called phagocytes and act as nonspecific defense.

Simply put, macrophages are a type of white blood cell that takes in foreign substances. Macrophages are the key agents in the immune response to any foreign intruder. When monocytes infiltrate the tissues, they develop into macrophages. Macrophages can be viewed as the first alert to the immune system that intruders have entered the body.

When macrophages are called to act, glycoproteins help to increase their magnitude, precision, rate, and speed to accurately identify and destroy bacteria, fungi, parasites, tumors, and viruses. That even includes the viruses that cause the common cold, HIV, influenza, and the measles.

Further, macrophages destroy bacteria, tumors, and protozoa. Macrophages release agents that stimulate cells in the immune system. Macrophages are constantly on alert and in battle-ready position. When you think macrophage, think Pac-Man; they gobble up the body's invaders.

Immune System

Our immune system is a collection of thousandss of chemicals and cells that help protect us from infection by identifying and eliminating pathogens (disease-producing agents) and tumor cells. Our immune system detects pathogens such as parasitic worms and viruses, and it distinguishes pathogens from normal tissues and cells. Every function the immune system performs is to rid the body of infection.

Even though our immune system functions throughout our entire body, cells are organized in specific areas. These sites are known as the central lymphoid tissue (including bone marrow and the thymus) and the peripheral lymphoid tissue (including the lymph nodes, mucus-associated lymphoid tissue, and the spleen).

While complex and difficult for some to understand, our immune system could hold many untold secrets and benefits. Some scientists believe that if the immune system were ever completely understood, it would unlock the mysteries to every disease known to mankind.

How Do Macrophages Affect the Immune System?

The primary function of macrophages is to help regulate immune responses. They may be called antigen-presenting cells (APC) or scavengers because they are the "bottom feeders" of the immune system. Macrophages gather and ingest foreign substances and introduce these substances (antigens) as T- and B-cells to the immune system. Macrophages play an important role in the first step in this initiation in the immune response. When macrophages become stimulated, they produce levels of phagocytosis (the ingestion of a smaller cell) and become secretory. Macrophages actually eat the would-be trespasser.

What If We Didn't Have an Immune System?

If we didn't have an immune system, diseases would attack our body and we would be unable to fight against them. Death would be a definite prospect within just minutes, possibly seconds.

The End Result

Our bodies were created with extreme precision and purpose. To maintain your health, it's important to practice healthy living. Only you can appreciate your health. Be sure you eat right, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest.

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