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How Cells Sacrifice Themselves to Boost Immunity

Written By: Osayenmwen Omozusi

There are many cells in the human body. From cartilage cells, which form a firm tissue, to white blood cells that help with immunity, they are vital for human life. Recent information came out regarding the possibility of different cells in the immune system communicating. Because of this, researchers have learned more about cells called neutrophils, which cause their own cell death to fight infections.

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that is an integral part of the innate immune system, the component responsible for the defenses that are always present and alert for bacterial and viral invaders (Michaud, 2020). Since most white cells are neutrophils, they usually respond to infections quickly. Although neutrophils can not fight infections by themselves, they rush to the inflamed site and release chemical signals. This process triggers the T cells, which are part of the adaptive immune system, which can specialize in destroying the viral threat. 

A team of researchers led by Dr. Lim from the University of Rochester studied mice injected with the flu virus. It showed the mice using the adaptive system to destroy the flu virus, but the researchers also noticed that neutrophils sacrifice themselves (Lim, 2020). When the T cells reach the infection site, the neutrophils begin a process of apoptosis, known as controlled death. This step releases large quantities of epidermal growth factor (EGF). EGF gives T cells more energy to destroy the virus.

The study displays how the innate and adaptive immune systems work together, reaching the point of sacrifice to protect the host. This additional information can optimize the different amalgamation of immune cells during an infection. The researchers noted:

Growing evidence from recent outbreaks of respiratory viral infection suggests that the patient lethality is closely linked to both direct viral cytopathicity and inflammation-mediated tissue damage. Thus, the therapeutic strategy to bridle excessive immune damage has been proposed for severe respiratory infections. (Lim, 2020) 

With this knowledge, we can find more effective therapeutic strategies and vaccines that can be used against the flu or COVID-19.



Works Cited

Lim K., et al., (2020, August 03). In situ neutrophil efferocytosis shapes T cell immunity to influenza infection. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from

Michaud, M. (2020, September 30). Cells Sacrifice Themselves to Boost Immune Response to Viruses. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from

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