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Complicated Spider Webs

Complicated Spider Webs
Many research authorities believe that the immune system’s primary job is to defend the body against viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and tumors. It is not. Its most important function is communication and logistics. Its secondary role is to eradicate foreign material and infectious debris from the body. When you consider the way logistics and protection work in concert, it does not take long to realize that the immune system’s processing is extremely complex, much like our U.S. military machine. What is so amazing is that all of the communication occurs in the dark and through chemical interactions; similar to ants working together in their colony below ground. Ants use chemicals called pheromones or chemotactic factors to communicate and guide each other to perform vital functions that keep the colony alive and well. Our immune system uses the same type of interaction. It uses a vast array of communicating molecules to invoke or suppress primitive and modern immune function.
There are mechanisms in place to keep our immune system from attacking our normal body parts. We have self-recognition. There is also an opposite point of view: the non-self. It is in the non-self realm that the immune system works its magic unless you have an auto immune disease. Our personal cells have a distinctive cellular signature and when that signature is not recognized, our immune system takes action. When our immune system encounters a first-time invader, it has the ability to not only defend us from attack, it can create an immunologic memory to better prepare us for additional attacks in the future. Vaccines exploit this phenomenon of immune memory.
There are three essentially different families of immune cells which are collectively called the white blood cells: neutrophil granulocytes, monocytes and lymphocytes. Today’s blog briefly and simply reviews the innate or primitive system: Neutrophil granulocytes and monocytes.
Neutrophil granulocytes also known as neutrophils, are the most abundant type of white blood cells in our immune system. It is part of our primitive or innate system as well as all other vertebrates. Mammals, birds, reptiles and fish all have neutrophils and monocytes in their immune systems. Neutrophils are derived from stem cells in the bone marrow. Neutrophils can be divided into two types: segmented and banded. Basophils, eosinophils and platelets are also members of the neutrophil family.
Neutrophils are a type of phagocyte, which means they ingest foreign material in order to dispose of it. They are the true Pack-Mans of our circulatory system. They have relatively short lives in the non-activated form. Their life span is roughly five to six days.
When inflammation occurs, either by tissue injury or infection, neutrophils are the first-responders that migrate to the site of inflammation. They can migrate through capillaries and interstial tissue (our body’s connective and structural fabric). They follow chemical signals just like ants. Interferon gamma, Interleukin 8 (IL-8), C5a, fMLP, and leukotriene B4 are the chemical signals that attract them the most.
In order for a neutrophil to ingest a microorganism or foreign particle, it must be targeted first. Targeting is referred to as opsonization in the medical world. Opsonins are molecular structures such as IgG and IgM immune globulins, Complement proteins C3b, iC3b and C4b and circulating proteins like mannose-binding lectin and C-reactive protein. Of these, the most important appears to be IgG and C3b.
Once inside the neutrophil, it generates a reactive oxygen species to destroy the targeted ingested cell. Remember you are what you eat. In 2004, researchers found that neutrophils can release net like structures of DNA. These Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs) trap and kill extracellular microbes. Trapping bacteria maybe an important mechanism to fight infection. But just like other aspects of the immune system, if it goes hay wire, NETs can play a role in autoimmune disease such as preeclampsia and probably blot clot formation. Perhaps spiders can teach us something about our ability to fight infections or create disease. Sometimes it takes a spider one week to weave a web that traps one prey. Then they start again. I suspect NETs form faster and catch more microbes than the average garden spider.
Monocytes are the largest white cell in the immune system. These cells like neutrophils, are a part of the primitive or innate immune system. The cells themselves are rather bean-shaped. This cell has several roles: they replenish resident macrophages, and move to sites of inflammation within eight to twelve hours of onset of tissue injury or infection. Once there, they transform into large macrophages and dendritic cells to elicit an immune response. Half of our monocytes are stored in the spleen.
The macrophage itself ingests opsonized material just like neutrophils but more efficiently. The microbial fragments that remain in the cell after digestion can be brought to the surface of the cell and serve as an antigen to activate T lymphocytes under the influence of the cytokine Interleukin-1 (IL-1). The dendritic cell progeny produce cytokines that include Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), IL-1, and Interleukin-2 (IL-2)
When there is an excess of Neutrophils or Monocytes in the blood, it usually indicates either an acute stress response to tissue injury, infection or autoimmune inflammation or a chronic unrelenting stress exists. What does all this mean?
We have a complex immune system that functions under the presence or absence of communicating chemicals such as chemokines, lymphokines, interferons, complement, interleukins, histamines, prostaglandins and immune globulins. The primitive or innate side of the immune system reacts to infection and inflammation by ingesting targeted bacteria, viruses, parasites and all other foreign material of our blood stream and tissues. The Monocyte has the ability to invoke the more modern Lymphocyte system by making antigens from fragments of devoured material and releasing IL-1 which stimulates T-lymphocytes to attack the antigen. You should be able to recognize that your self can be as vulnerable as your non-self if the immune system gets something wrong or misinterprets self for non-self.
Anyone making antibodies to their food can see why it is important to change what and how you eat. Anyone making autoimmune antibodies can see how important it is not to stimulate the immune system in general because it will raise immune awareness throughout the entire body. And we all know what raising immune awareness does, it creates flares of chronic illness and potentially generates knew disturbing aspects of a chronic disease condition. We have yet to explore the more modern aspects of the immune system. That is for another day. For now, think about the primitive system by getting yourself out of the dark. Quit ignoring the reality of immune mediated disease, anyone can develop it at any time. And in later blogs, I will explore the effects of stress on the primitive and modern immune systems.
Now we have LED lighting instead of incandescent bulbs and in my home, the two different systems work together to light up my house. We still have spiders and spider webs to contend with. Some things will probably never change.

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 7:55 AM
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