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Immunology - Essay Example

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NATURAL KILLER CELLS Name Natural Killer Cells Discuss the role of NK cells in innate anti-viral immunity and explain how NK cells are able to kill many types of virus-infected cells and not normal host cells. Natural killer cells are an important part of the innate immune system of the human beings…
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Download file to see previous pages These cells develop in the human beings with the assistance of Interleukin 15 and they arise from the bone marrow through the CD34 cells which are hematopoietic stem cells. The natural killer cells do have a few T cell markers but unlike the T lymphocytes, thymus is not required for the maturation of the natural killer cells (Levinson 2008 p. 421). Another important aspect which is unique to these cells is that their quantity does not reduce in pathologic conditions which involve T Cells like Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease. Natural killer cells are referred to as “natural” owing to the fact that they can function without having any previous interaction with the virus and their non-specificity as they can act on all viruses. Also their efficiency is not improved by previous infections. These cells have an important function of protecting the body against viruses and this is proved as humans who do not have natural killer cells in their body have a higher susceptibility to develop lethal viral infections which include varicella zoster virus and cytomegalovirus (Hoffman et al 2013 p. 210; Levinson 2008 p. 421,422). Natural killer cells are an important constituent of the innate immunity and are amongst the first immune cells to reach the areas of inflammation and initiate an immune response. They are larger in size as compared to the B and T cells which is owing to the greater amount of cytoplasm in these cells which is composed of granules containing cytotoxic substances. These granules along with the substances within them are known to be identical to the granules of cytotoxic CD8 T lymphocytes (Lambris 2007 p.7). A significant role of these cells is that they come into action in an infection before the activation of T cells. It is also known that these cells are the first producers of interferon gamma. This prompt response of natural killer cells is noteworthy because individuals who have properly functioning T cell responses but lack natural killer cells have a tendency to develop fatal viral infections (Lambris 2007 p.7; Marsh et al 2000 p.46). Natural killer cells mainly follow two pathways for attacking and destroying the cells that they target. The first pathway is the cytotoxic granule dependent pathway. In this process, the receptors of the natural killer cells bind to the cells that are infected by viruses. This attachment promotes the secretion of perforin as well as granzymes that are present within the cytotoxic granules of the natural killer cells. Perforin is a protein that has a role in creating pores whereas granzymes are a group of proteases. Perforin acts on the membrane of the cell infected by the virus and creates pores, forming a passage for the granzymes into the attacked cell. The granzymes in turn activate the caspase protease system by either direct activation or by the production of Cytochrome c within the mitochondria which then leads to the apoptosome path for the initiation of the caspase system. Thus, this activation of the caspase protease system results in the cell death and destruction of infected cells. The second path that is used by the natural killer cells for the induction of apoptosis of the cells infected with viruses is known as the death receptor pathway. The natural killer cell memranes have the Fas ligand bound to them. In this path, the natural killer cells uses these ligands leading to the trimerization of the Fas receptors which ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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