Basophils are white blood cells which have been described as “the first line of defense against infection.” They play a vital role in fighting off infections and other diseases. Basophils are found all over the body including the nose, throat, lungs, heart, brain and bones. Their main job is to kill invading organisms such as bacteria or viruses. They do not attack healthy tissue; they only target pathogens. However, it is well known that some types of cancer cells are able to survive in the presence of basophils. Some researchers believe that these tumors may be caused by the presence of basophils in certain tissues.
The following facts about basophils will make your life easier:
They live for around 10 years and can live up to 100 years old. They can become very rare if there is no immune system function.
Their number decreases with age. In fact, their numbers decrease faster than those of other cells. Basophils are one of the few cell types that don’t regenerate after death. They die when they reach a certain age (usually between 40 and 50). When they die, they leave behind dead cells called macrophages which engulf the dead cells and release them into the bloodstream where they can fight disease.
Basophils are divided into two groups: monocytes and lymphocytes. The difference between the two groups is that:
The monocytes become macrophages and dendritic cells. They are the largest in size of all white blood cells (WBCs).
Dendritic cells support the immune system by teaching it how to fight pathogens.
Two subtypes of lymphocytes are known as B-cells and T-cells. These two types, in turn, are divided into several subtypes. T-cells are further subdivided into CD4 (helper) and CD8 (suppressor) subgroups, while B-cells are known as either plasma cells or memory cells depend on their fate after apoptosis. These two groups target different types of foreign invaders such as viruses or bacteria.
Monocytes move through the blood vessels and become tissue macrophages. These cells protect the body by walling-off infection or repairing damaged tissue.
Basophils are known to release chemicals such as serotonin, histamine, and heparin. They also release cytokines such as interleukins, interferons and tumor necrosis factors. These chemicals can either kill invaders directly or trigger other types of immune cells to destroy the pathogen.
They are part of the dectin-1, FcεRI and P-selectin glycoprotein ligand-1 (PSGL-1) system. This complex network allows basophils to recognize specific pathogens.
Some people do not have basophils. Others only have a few basophils in their blood and other tissues. These individuals are known as basophilia or low basophil count.
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