Articles

T-CELLS

By Michael Okubena

T-cells are coordinators of immune regulation and enhance the body's immune responses through secretion of specialized factors which activate white blood cells that fight off infection. These cells assist in detecting immune deficiencies and destroy invaders that try to attack our body.

T-cells are produced in the bone marrow and mature in the thymus. When these cells get matured, they travel in the blood to other lymphoid tissues, such as the spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes. They play a vital role in protecting our body against diseases by eliminating cancerous cells and those infected with virus and bacteria.

T-cells Function

T-cells are produced in the bone marrow and move to the thymus gland to mature. There are two important steps which decide the maturity of T-cells. In the first step T-cells should recognize major histocompatibility complex (MHC) because they play an important role in maintaining the immune system and autoimmunity. MHC is found on the surface of all cells and signals an alarm if a virus is reproducing in the cell.

The second test is that, any T-cells that recognize peptides that are normally in the body will be killed. After the recognition of peptide in the body, it goes into effector mode and changes from a naive T-cell into an effector T-cell.

There are very few T-cells that leave the thymus gland and are properly functional. There are different types of T-cells and each of these types has important functions. Some of these are described below.   

T-cells types

  • Suppressor T-cells

CD8 +T-cells are called suppressor cells or regulatory cells because they are involved in killing viral infected cells, tumor cells and parasites. These cells are important because they down regulate immune responses.

  • Natural killer cells

Natural killer cells (NK) are similar to CD8+T-cells and work as effector cells by killing tumors like lymphomas, melanomas and viral infected cells such as herpes and cytomegalovirus. Lymphoid organs are generally targeted by these cells. CD4 +T-cells which are activated through the secretion of natural killer cells kill viral infected tumors more efficiently.

  • T helper cell

The immune system is made of number of cell types which can kill parasitic or tumor or viral infected cells. These cells are dependent upon the, 'T,' helper subset for activation signals in the form of secretions >which are referred to as, Lymphokines, Cytokines or Interleukins. T helper subsets assist in detecting immune deficiencies.

  • Cytotoxic T-cells

Cytotoxic T-cells are related to a sub group of T lymphocytes that are capable of destroying tumor cells. These cells are alerted by helper T-cells or cell membrane proteins that body cells are infected with a pathogen and then check the body cells for pathogen proteins on their cell membranes. Cytotoxic T-cells are affected by variety of mechanisms and they can destroy antigens directly by releasing cytotoxic substances. These cells are very effective against tuberculosis and cancer cells, as they attract macrophages and intensify phagocytosis.

  • Memory T-cells

Memory T-cells provide excellent immune action against various infections, pathogens and foreign bodies. They are capable of recollecting memory against past infections and quickly expand to large number of effector T-cells upon reoccurrence of that infection. Memory T-cells can be classified according to central memory T-cells and effector memory T-cells.

T-cells in the immune system

The human immune system is a protection mechanism which defends the body against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that try to invade the human body. Our immune system can detect viruses, parasitic worms and differentiate them from healthy cells and tissues, required for the normal functioning of the body.

T-cells play a crucial in maintaining a healthy immune system as they help the immune cells to recognize specific invaders (antigens) remember them and launch an attack against them if they are encountered again. The white blood cells known as lymphocytes, that include T-cells destroy antigens directly. The lymphocytes act as the defending army of the human immune system providing a shield against several diseases and viruses.

A healthy immune system with adequate T-cell count helps our body to withstand damage from anti- biotic resistant bacteria and prevents the reoccurrence of pathogens hiding in the body like herpes that causes cold sores and mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis

T-cells help maintain fine tuned immune reactions to any antigen that trigger an immune response by managing cell mediated system and helping the B cells to manage humoral system.  They play a vital role in destroying infected or cancerous cells and coordinate all Acquired Immune Responses.

Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of T-cells which activate and regulate immune elements and independently handle the destruction of tumor cell by producing Cytokines.

T-cell Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells, namely lymphocytes that constitute the lymphatic system. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

T-cell lymphoma is a rare disease in which T lymphocyte cells become cancerous. These lymphomas account for between 10 percent and 15 percent of all cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States (approximately 5,000 to 6,000 cases) a year. However, some forms of T-cell lymphoma are more common in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

There are many different types of T-cell lymphoma, most of which are extremely rare, occurring in only a few patients per year throughout the world. Like the B-cell lymphomas, T-cell lymphomas are classified into two broad categories - aggressive (fast-growing) or indolent (slow-growing).

Peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) comprises a group of rare and aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas that develop from T-cells in different stages of maturity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the various types of PTCL into two main categories

  • precursor T/NK neoplasms
  • peripheral T/NK neoplasms

Peripheral T-cell lymphoma generally affects people over age 60 and is diagnosed in slightly more men than women.

T-cell Leukemia

T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is a rare cancer of the immune system's own T-cells.  Human T cell leukemia/lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is believed to be the cause of it.

ATL is a highly aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with no characteristic histologic appearance except for a diffuse pattern and a mature T-cell phenotype.

Some of the types of T-cell leukemia include:

  • Large granular lymphocytic leukemia
  • Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma
  • T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia

Often, it is difficult to distinguish T-cell leukemia from T-cell lymphoma, and they are often grouped together.

T-cell receptor

The T cell receptor or TCR is a molecule found on the surface of T lymphocytes (or T cells) that is responsible for recognizing antigens bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. 

It is a heterodimer consisting of an alpha and beta chain in 95% of T cells, whereas 5% of T cells have TCRs consisting of gamma and delta chains.

Engagement of the TCR with antigen and MHC results in activation of its T lymphocyte through a series of biochemical events mediated by associated enzymes, co-receptors, specialized accessory molecules and activated or released transcription factors.

T-cells count

T-cells count is a type of blood test which measures the number of T-cells in blood. This test determines whether the T-cells count is low or high. This test also determines the condition of person’s immune system.

This test is very beneficial for the doctor to administer patients suffering from HIV, as it gives them an idea about the damage done to the immune system by this virus. The normal range of CD4 T-cells is usually between 400 and 1600 and people suffering from HIV infection have CD4 T-cells count below 200.

The total count of these cells in the blood also reflects total lymphocyte count in the body, which can be temporarily decreased due to infections. 

T-cells higher than normal levels are due to multiple myeloma, acute lymphocytic leukemia and infectious mononucleosis.

Lower T-cells count may occur due to several reasons:

  • AIDS
  • Acute viral infection
  • Aging
  • Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Radiation therapy

Low T-cell count risk

Lower T-cell count results in weak or defective immune system. This leads to increased susceptibility to infection, allergies, autoimmune diseases and sometimes even cancer.

There are some immune deficiency diseases which are acquired. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is one of the acquired immune deficiency diseases. This virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) destroys the immune system of our body. People with AIDS have very low T-cell count and thus lose the ability to fight against infections. 

Intake of immunosuppressant medications is also one of the reasons for having low T-cell count which generally leads to immunodeficiency diseases.Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is a type of immune deficiency which is caused by the lack of B and T lymphocytes. Low count of T lymphocytes makes it impossible for the immune system to fight against any infections.

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ANTIOXIDANTS

By Michael Okubena

NEW PRODUCTS

  • In medical terms antioxidants definition is - naturally occurring molecules found in various forms such as vitamins, minerals or compounds in a variety of foods that help fight free radicals which cause oxidative damage to blood cells and DNA in the body. If left unchecked, these free radicals can have harmful effects on our health as they accelerate the processes of aging, cause fatty substances or plaque to build up on artery walls increasing risk of heart diseases, cause damage to the cells in our body and also hinder smooth movement of blood to all parts of the body. 

    Antioxidants themselves get oxidized when they block the process of oxidation by neutralizing free radicals, thus there is constant need of the body to replenish antioxidant resource. They are found in substances such as vitamin E, vitamin C or beta carotene which protect the body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation and therefore help to maintain our general health and wellbeing.

    Antioxidants are very beneficial as they help to boost energy, reverse the aging process and nourish the skin by supplying purifying agents in the blood. They play a vital role in preventing the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer disease and cataracts.  Antioxidants are also known to lower blood pressure.

    Antioxidants - How they work

    Oxidation, a natural process that occurs within our body's cells, can produce reactive substances called free radicals. Free radicals can damage our body cells. This procedure leads to oxidation of antioxidants and thus makes it necessary for the body to replenish antioxidant resources on a constant basis.  Antioxidants can stabilize free radicals before they damage our body cells. There are two ways by which antioxidants can fight free radicals and prevent oxidation:

    • Chain-breaking method

    Antioxidants help to terminate the chain building process by free radicals, which lead to the creation of a stabilized radical. Generally, free radicals roam around in our body trying to release or get an electron. When their task is accomplished, a second radical is formed which again try to release or get electron. Thus excessive free radicals are formed in the body due to this chain building process. Antioxidants play a crucial role in breaking this chain and stop the production of more unstable products inside the body.

    • Oxidation deterrence

    The main reason behind the creation of chain of free radicals is oxidation process. Oxidative process initiates the process of multiple chain building of free radicals. Antioxidants not only help break the chain of free radicals, but can also help prevent oxidative process. Rate of chain initiation is generally reduced by enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase. These enzymes search for the chain initiating free radicals and try to neutralize them and prevent an oxidation chain, and thus prevent oxidation process. Metal radicals such as iron and copper also initiate the oxidative process, but these antioxidant enzymes stabilize them and prevent oxidation.

    Antioxidants include some vitamins (such as vitamins C and E), some minerals (such as selenium), and flavonoids, which are found in plants. The best sources of antioxidants are fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

    Types of antioxidants

    Antioxidants are found in nutrients such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Selenium and enzymes such as Superoxide dismutase, Catalase, Glutathione peroxidase etc. There are several types of antioxidants and each type is unique in terms of its structure and antioxidant function. Some of these types are listed below:

    • Glutathione

    The body produces and stores the largest amount of glutathione in the liver, where they play a crucial role in detoxifying harmful compounds so that they can be removed from the body through bile. This antioxidant helps prevent cancer especially of the liver and protects the cells throughout the body. Glutathione also maximize the disease fighting power of the immune system, as liver supplies this powerful antioxidant directly in the bloodstream which keeps red blood cells and white blood cells healthy. They play a vital role in converting carbohydrates into energy and prevent the buildup of oxidized fats that may contribute to atherosclerosis. Vegetables and fruits are the best source of glutathione.

    • Melatonin

    Melatonin is an antioxidant hormone that is secreted into the bloodstream by the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a small, pea sized structure near the center of the brain. This antioxidant helps to slow the aging process and prevents chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer disease. Melatonin helps to maintain body’s natural biorhythm. This potent antioxidant also helps to alleviate cluster headaches, boosts immune system’s ability to stop tumor from spreading throughout the body. Melatonin is more beneficial for women as this antioxidant controls the menstrual cycle and release of female reproductive hormones. During old age the body’s ability to produce melatonin decreases, hence taking melatonin supplements may prove beneficial.

    • Lipoic acid

     Lipoic acid acts as a universal antioxidant and it is naturally produced by the body. It helps to protect the body against harmful effects of free radicals and enhances the activities of other antioxidants in the body. Lipoic acid has anti-inflammatory and Neuro-protective capabilities that make it effective in slowing the aging of the brain and treating Alzheimer's disease. It also plays a vital role in normalizing blood sugar levels and thus prevents serious complications from diabetes. It is an essential part of the metabolic machinery as it helps to convert glucose into energy for the body requirements. Lipoic acid supplements helps to replenish lipoic acid storage, as lipoic acid decreases with advancing age.

    • Bilberry

    It is one of the most effective antioxidant herbs which keep capillaries strong, protect against night blindness, cataracts, and improve circulation. It prevents radical damage to collagen and collagenous tissue and thus prevents diseases such as gout, periodontal diseases and osteoarthritis. Bilberry extracts are quite famous as they have anti-carcinogenic effects.

    • Acai Berry

    Acai berry is a potent antioxidant, as it contains essential omega 3 fatty acids and adequate amount of vital amino acids. It improves skin condition and helps clear up skin related problems as it allows the skin to regenerate faster and more efficiently. The fatty acids that are present in Acai berry help to reduce the risk of symptoms associated with heart disease. Acai berry also neutralizes free radicals and repairs damage that free radicals can do to the body. It also improves digestive health and burns unwanted mass helping in losing weight quickly. Acai berry is also a rich source of protein and dietary fiber.

    • Coenzyme- Q10 (Coq10)

    The Coq10 or coenzyme-Q10 is a super antioxidant nutrient which is used in prevention and treatment of various forms of heart diseases. It is highly effective in preventing the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) that leads to atherosclerosis (2, 6-8). An adequate level of Coq10 is essential for proper muscle functioning and improves the condition of people suffering from muscular dystrophy. Coq10 also maintains oral health and keeps gums healthy. Meat, dairy products, eggs, cereals and vegetables are best source of Coq10. Several studies have shown that adequate Coq10 level in the body helps to lower the deterioration rate of Parkinson’s disease. It also plays a potential role in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

    • Minerals

    Our body needs adequate amount of dietary minerals for vital body processes and developments. Some of the important minerals needed are calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, sodium and zinc. They act as vital components for enzymes and hormones. As minerals cannot be produced by the body, they need to be acquired through diet. Minerals play an important role with respect to energy metabolism, collagen formation, bone/teeth mineralization, antioxidant activities, detoxification, cell excitability, and blood clotting. Nuts, legumes, wholegrain foods, green leafy vegetables and milk products provide most of the minerals in our diet.

    • Carotenoids

    Plants produce strong antioxidants to prevent sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and other environmental carcinogens from damaging their cellular system. They are one of the most effective types of antioxidants and daily intake of them is important to avoid harmful diseases. The most beneficial and effective carotenoids are alpha-carotene, cryptoxanthin, Beta carotene, zeaxathin, lycopene.

    • Flavonoids

    Flavonoids are non-nutrient compounds found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, nuts and beverages. They are known as polyphenolic compounds. Red wine, green, black or white teas are a rich source of flavonoids. Flavonoids are beneficial as they inhibit low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation by free radicals and prevent oxidative stress. They also have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic effect. Some of the types of flavonoids are catechins, reserveratrol and proanthocyanidins.

    • Isoflavones

    Isoflavones are found in soybeans and other legumes and have various health benefits. A diet supplemented with isoflavones has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in postmenopausal women with Type 2 diabetes. Isoflavones also provide protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, menopausal symptoms, heart disease and osteoporosis. The important types of isoflavones are Genistein and Daidzein.

    • Goji Berries

    Goji berries are well known for their natural antioxidant properties which have far reaching abilities against the damaging effects of free radicals. These antioxidants have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and neurological diseases. Goji berries help to improve eyesight, fertility and sexual function and are beneficial for proper functioning of liver. The extracts of Goji berries play a crucial role in preventing expansion of cancer cells, lowering blood glucose and reducing cholesterol levels. Goji berries also strengthen the immune system of our body by boosting polysaccharides that control important defense system. They also contain essential fatty acids, which are required for the production of hormones and for the smooth functioning of the brain and nervous system.

    Antioxidants benefits

    Antioxidants are nutrients that help protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals that attack healthy cells. They help to terminate the chain building process by free radicals, which lead to the creation of a stabilized radical. Antioxidants are generally found in substances such as vitamin E, Vitamin C or beta carotene which protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation and therefore help to maintain our general health and wellbeing. Antioxidants are blessed with several benefits, some of them are

    • Antioxidant enzymes such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids especially lutein and zeaxanthin and zinc may protect the eyes against harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.
    • Dietary antioxidants like blueberries, acai berries, and green tea have beneficial effect on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.
    • Antioxidants help fight heart disease, tumor growth and reverse the process of aging and increase longevity.
    • Antioxidants play a beneficial role in maintaining and nourishing healthy skin tone by reducing wrinkles and preserving the skin’s natural health. 
    • As they prevent the cellular damage caused by the free radicals, they slow or may stop the growth of cancer cells.
    • They also prevent radical damage to collagen and collagenous tissue and thus prevent diseases such as gout, periodontal diseases and osteoarthritis.
    • Antioxidants play a major role in keeping our immune system strong for fighting against viruses, germs and other harmful substances. 

    Antioxidant diet

    Antioxidants are molecules that slow down or prevent the deterioration and damage of cells in the body. If the antioxidant levels in the body are not adequate, the harmful effect of it can cause oxidative stress and may damage or even kill off cells. A healthy diet as well as regular exercise goes a long way in keeping a person healthy. In addition, consumption of antioxidant foods also increases the antioxidant levels of the body helping to keep other ailments at bay. Sufficient amount of antioxidants can be met by including foods and drinks rich in antioxidants.

    • Antioxidant foods

    Antioxidant fruits

    • Apricots, bananas, Clementine, yellow grapefruit, oranges, yellow peach, pears, honeydew and cantaloupe melons, pineapple, red plum, tangerine, water melon contain ample amount of potent antioxidants that help in maintaining health skin tone.
    •  Blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, cherry,redcurrant, acai berry, Goji berries, coffee berry are rich in proanthocyanidins, antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease and are beneficial in boosting immunity.
    •  Kiwi fruit, black and white grapes, loquat, fig, prickly pear, black and green olives are good sources of antioxidants which helps to protect the body against harmful effects of the free radicals.

    Antioxidant vegetables and meat

    • Carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cucumber, eggplant, endive, fennel, green bean, leek, green lettuce, mushroom are some of the vegetables which are rich in antioxidants and help to maintain heart health. 
    • Dark green leafy vegetables, salmon, tomatoes, tea, nuts, beans and whole grains are some good source of antioxidants. 
    • Yellow onion, chili and red bell peppers, potato, pumpkin, radicchio, Swiss chard stalk, red radish, spinach, salad and sauce tomatoes, turnip tops and zucchini are best sources of antioxidants. 
    • Artichoke, arugula, asparagus, avocado, beet, red cooked beetroot, broccoli, green and Savoy cabbages are excellent sources of antioxidants. 
    • Fish, chicken, lamb, oyster and tuna are good antioxidant sources. 

    Antioxidant drinks

    • Antioxidants in fruits - Pomegranate Juice, apple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, red wine, Concord grape juice, Blueberry juice, Black cherry juice, Acai berry juice, Cranberry juice and Goji juice are best antioxidant drinks available. 
    • Antioxidants in tea and coffee - Green tea, Coffee, ice tea, herbal tea are excellent drink sources which provide vital antioxidant properties.  
    • Antioxidant and red wine - A glass of red wine can keep the heart beating longer and stronger. Red wine contains resveratol and quercetin; potent antioxidants that help boost heart health by fighting against free radicals, reduce platelet aggregation and help blood vessels remain open and flexible. 

    Antioxidants and weight loss

    In human beings, body fats are stored in adipose tissues which contain lipids that are needed to transform nutrients into energy. Toxins are generally released through the digestive process and fat cell store them. Antioxidants improve digestive health by destroying harmful toxins and burn unwanted mass which help in losing weight quickly.

    Green tea is a potent antioxidant which produces thermogenesis and thus leads to increased energy usage and fat oxidation which in turn helps the body burn excess fat resulting in weight loss. Supplements containing extracts of substances like Acai berry and red wine (resveratrol) can be a good alternative for weight loss. During the fat burning process, antioxidants provide nutritional support to the body as it need to be strong and energized to handle the process.

    Antioxidants skin

    Skin is a large and vital sensory organ and acts as defense against all kinds of attacks on the body,       such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and foreign invaders. It contains vital fluids which do not evaporate uncontrollably and are essential for maintaining body temperature. In addition, the skin produces and stores vitamin D, which is necessary for absorbing calcium. 

    Since skin is constantly exposed to sunlight and pollutants, it is constantly affected by the formation of free radicals. People who do not protect skin properly against pollutants and free radicals are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Free radicals can also damage DNA, damage blood cells, create age spots and wrinkles and depress the immune system.

    Including a diet rich in antioxidants or taking antioxidant supplements are the most effective ways to protect skin from harmful damage done by pollutants and free radicals.

    • Antioxidants neutralize internal and external forces that produce free radicals, which is the main cause of aging. 
    • Vitamins E or Vitamin C are some of the essential antioxidant vitamins which help prevent skin cancer and keep skin firm and young looking.
    • Antioxidants can also help prevent symptoms such as dry skin, oily skin, chapped lips, acne-prone skin and puffed or tired eyes. 

    Antioxidant Vitamins

    Antioxidants which are found in nutrients such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Beta carotene have potential health promoting properties. Antioxidants are also known to prevent oxidation of low density lipoproteins or ‘bad cholesterol’ and thus stop the development of fatty buildups on the artery walls. This bad cholesterol (LDL) is a major reason for heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis.

    • Vitamin A helps to keep eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist and also neutralizes free radicals in the body that cause tissue and cellular damage.
    • Vitamin B Complex (which includesB vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate) acts as an antioxidant helping fight free radicals. Vitamin B is a powerful antioxidant and is an excellent vitamin source for heart health, nervous system as well as muscle function, conversion of fatty acids and amino acids into hormones, proteins, and enzymes. It is a great energy booster.
    • Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant vitamin which protects the body and the skin against harmful environmental pollutants. Citrus fruits and their juices, acai berries, goji berries, grape seed extract are best sources of Vitamin C. 
    • Vitamin D is the most potent antioxidant vitamin which helps the body to absorb and use calcium from food and supplements. It aids in bone and tooth formation and supports muscle and nerve function. It is essential for blood clotting – crucial otherwise a lot of blood can be lost even by a small cut or bruise and the person would die immediately.
    • Vitamin E acts as a primary protector against oxidation and it is a vital and most efficient fat soluble antioxidant vitamin.
    • Vitamin K is the vital antioxidant vitamin which helps the blood to clot and thus stop continuous bleeding. This fat soluble vitamin is kept in the fat tissue for few days. It is also essential for proper functioning of kidneys and bone growth.

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WHITE BLOOD CELLS (WBC)

By Michael Okubena

White blood cells (WBC) or leukocytes are vital cells of the immune system protecting the human body against infections, bacteria, microbes, viruses and pathogens. These cells are produced in the stem of the bone marrow and are composed of granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils) and non-granulocytes (lymphocytes and monocytes).

WBC’s are constantly circulating through the blood stream and once they identify a particular antigen, they immediately launch a counterattack. These cells are responsible for providing required immunity, without which it will be impossible for the body to fight against any kind of infections or diseases.

White Blood Cells Function

White blood cells act as the defending army of the human immune system providing a shield against several diseases and viruses. An inherently weak or defective immune system can lead to increased susceptibility to infection, allergies, autoimmune diseases and sometimes even cancer. These cells have a density of about 4 – 11 billion per liter of blood.

White blood cells also help produce antibodies which identify invaders and destroy body cells which have become contaminated with invading microbes. The contaminated cells survive couple of days but when they die, they are destroyed by surrounding white blood cells and replaced with new ones.

White blood cells are asymmetrical, colorless and do not contain haemoglobin. They have the ability to change their shape, which enable them to penetrate into the walls of blood vessels and between other cells. White blood cells divide by a process of mitosis, forming either more stem cells or white blood cells that can differentiate into specific white cell types, such as lymphocytes. 


Types of White Blood Cells

Neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils are the major types of white blood cells and each of them carry out unique functions for the immune system.  These cells play an important role in the immune system by protecting the body from various organisms and infections that contain diseases.

Neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils are collectively known as granulocytes due to prominent granules in their cytoplasm.

Lymphocytes and monocytes do not contain granules and are therefore classified under non granulocytes.

A brief description of each type of white blood cells:

Granulocytes

  • Neutrophils

Neutrophils are the most common types of white blood cell which make up 55-70% of the total white blood cells and are mostly found near sites of infection. These cells are not completely segmented and often have a 'C-shaped' nucleus. Each neutrophil consist of four granules in the nucleus.  Myeloblast, promyelocyte, myelocyte, metamyelocyte, band and segmented neutrophil are the developmental stages for a neutrophil cell.  

Neutrophils shelter the body against disease and infections by removing and destroying bacteria, microbes, viruses, foreign substances, and other cells.  These cells play a vital role by absorbing any invading microbes that try to enter the bloodstream. During this process they release an enzyme that dissolves cells in the immediate area, resulting in pus formation. These cells are produced in the bone marrow but some of them are produced outside the marrow as well. When the neutrophils are fully formed they are released into the circulating blood.

  • Eosinophils

Eosinophils are produced in the bone marrow and circulate at relatively low levels in the blood stream. About 2 – 5% of total white blood cells are comprised of eosinophils. These cells are normally found outside blood vessels in organs rather than bone marrow. A large number of eosinophils are generally found in the gastrointestinal tract. They protect the body by engulfing and killing bacteria, viruses, pathogens and other microorganisms.

Eosinophils can destroy cancer cells and secrete substances which help to stop chemicals that mediate infections and also assist the body by performing phagocytosis. Through the process of diapedesis, eosinophils can directly attack localized infections in the tissue.

The count of eosinophils will increase considerably if the body senses the existence of allergens or parasites. Eosinophils also participate in inflammation responses in human diseases such as asthma, skin diseases and heart disease.

Some bone marrow disorders and infections may also increase eosinophil count.  High eosinophil count can lead to severe complications such as asthma, autoimmune diseases, eczema, hay fever and leukemia.

  • Basophils

Basophils are the rare type of white blood cells which constitute only 1% of the total white blood cells count. They contain dark purple granules in the cytoplasm. They generally secrete biologically active substances such as histamine, proteoglycans, or cyclooxigenase products.

These cells are produced in the stem of the bone marrow. Due to the presence of IgE on their surfaces, they help release chemical mediators that cause allergic symptoms and thus play a vital role in the allergic responses.

Basophils generally circulate throughout the body in the blood stream and they have the ability to penetrate into various tissues. They immediately respond to pathogens, microbes or any other infectious agent with help of other types of white blood cells. Basophils also aid phagocytosis and invoke the process of inflammation when body experiences some kind of pain.

Higher Basophils count can lead to asthma, fatigue, flu like symptoms, anemia, leucopenia, leukocytosis and basophilia.

Non granulocytes

  • Lymphocytes

Lymphocytes are the common white blood cells which detect and destroy invading viruses, parasitic worms and microbes. These cells have the ability to recognize specific invaders (antigens) and quickly launch a response to them, when they are encountered again. Lymphocytes are classified into T cells, B cellsand Natural killer cells.

T Cells and B cells are specific to a particular antigen and are able to bind to a particular molecular structure. Generally each B cell produces one specific antibody and when it gets activated by an antigen, it produces large cells known as plasma cells which produce antibodies. The antibodies produced by the B cells will help to destroy antigens that try to damage our immune system. B cells and their antibodies, both natural and adaptive, play a fundamental role in the immediate and late defense against microbes.

T cells not only helps the B cells by producing antibodies but also play a vital role in protecting our body against diseases by destroying cancerous cells and those cells which are  infected with viruses and bacteria. These cells are capable of recollecting memory against past infections and quickly expand to large number of effector T cells upon their reoccurrence.

Natural Killer cells or NK cells play a crucial role in killing tumors like lymphomas, melanomas and viral infected cells such as herpes and cytomegalovirus. The functions of NK cells are similar to that of the effector cells. Lack of T and B lymphocytes can lead to severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). These cells generally tend to get cancerous, if their count increases to a large extent. Hence the count of T or B lymphocytes should neither be too high or too low.

  • Monocytes

Monocytes are the type of white blood cells which are produced in the myelo-monocytic stem cells in the bone marrow. The size of monocytes and its nucleus are biggest among all types of WBC’s. They comprise about 3 -8% of the total white blood cell count. Monocytes are one of the major white cells that protect the body from infection and prevent microorganisms from entering the bloodstream. They also support phagocytosis and antigen processing, as a result these cells play crucial role in immune defense, inflammation and tissue remodeling. Monocytes have the ability to turn into macrophages or dendritic cells, which are vital immune system cells.

White blood cell count

White blood cell count determines the number of white blood cells present in the blood. It helps identify whether the number of white blood cells is high or low. White blood cell count is determined by the number of white blood cells per volume of blood. This test is taken according to the different types of white blood cells such as Neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and Basophils.

 WBC count is also taken to identify presence of an infection, leukemia or any other type of disease. The WBC count is generally classified according to low white blood cell count and high white blood cell count.

  • White blood cell count Low

Normal white blood cell count helps the body to fight against several infections and diseases. Normally there should be 4,500 to 10,000 white blood cells in 1 micro liter of blood. But if the count of white blood cells decreases below this level it can lead to leucopenia.

Due to scarce WBC’s, body is unable to fight against invading pathogens, microbes or viruses. There are number of causes that lead to low white blood cell count. Some of these causes are described below:-

Low white blood cell count causes

  • Damage to the bone marrow due to certain complications can reduce the number of white blood cells.
  • Autoimmune diseases such as Lupusreact against healthy white blood cells and produce antibodies to attack it.  
  • Epstein-Barr virus, tuberculosis and HIV are some of the types of viral infections that can reduce the WBC count. 
  • Chemotherapy not only kills cancerous cells but also healthy immune cells reducing the WBC count.
  • Aplastic anemia is one of the major causes that can reduce white blood cells to a large extent.

Symptoms of low white blood cell count

  • High fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Mouth sores
  • Flu like symptoms such as cough, headache, cold and sore throat.
  • Gastrointestinal infections

White blood cell count High

When the white blood cells exceed the normal count it can lead to leukocytosis. If the count is higher than 10,000 leukocytes in a micro liter of blood, it is considered as high white blood cell count. White blood cell count is elevated due to certain pathogens, microbes or infections. Increased white blood cell count can even lead to cancer. Postmenopausal women with elevated white blood cell counts may be at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, endometrial, and lung cancers.

High white blood cell count causes

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia is a kind of cancer which elevates WBC count as it mainly affects the bone marrow.
  • Certain use of drugs such as epinephrine and corticosteroids can increase white blood cell count.
  • Tuberculosis, acute or chronic lymphocytic leukemia, myelofibrosis and other bacterial infection can also increase the risk of high white blood cell count.
  • Smoking and stress also increase white blood cell count.

Symptoms of high white blood cell count

  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Flu like symptoms aches, cold cough or fever
  • Infections
  • Swollen spleen or liver
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle aches

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IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA

By Michael Okubena

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional disorders caused due to low iron intake or insufficient absorption of iron in the body. A common cause of microcytic anemia, iron deficiency anemia is also referred to as sideropenic anemia.

Iron is one of the most important constituents of red blood cells as it plays a crucial role in energy metabolism, gene regulation, cell growth and differentiation, oxygen binding and transport, muscle oxygen use and storage, enzyme reactions, neurotransmitter synthesis and protein synthesis.

Adequate quantity of iron is necessary to make hemoglobinwhich is an important constituent in the red blood cells, responsible for transport of oxygen. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body's tissues, giving energy and skin a healthy color. Lack in hemoglobin can lessen the oxygen binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule, resulting in anemia. This deficiency causes the red blood cells to appear abnormal and unusually small (microcytic) and pale (hypochromic).

A most common form of anemia, on an average 3.5 million people in America alone are affected by iron deficiency anemia. The numbers for iron deficiency anemia are even higher in developing countries, especially in very poor areas where people suffer from malnutrition.

Children and pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency in children can cause behavioral disturbances, developmental delays, failure to thrive and infections. There is an increased risk of delivering a low birth weight baby and preterm delivery in pregnant women. Many people who have pre-existing iron deficiency anemia run the risk of being infected with malaria.

Generally a proper balanced diet, foods rich in iron content such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as iron supplements can help in overcoming iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia causes

  • Inadequate intake & insufficient absorption of iron - The major causes that lead to iron deficiency anemia are inadequate consumption of iron and insufficient absorption of iron.  If iron content is very low, our body is unable to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that gives blood its red color and enables the red blood cells to carry oxygenated blood throughout the body. Small intestine plays a vital role in the absorption of iron from the food; if the small intestine has been surgically removed or bypassed it may have an effect on intestines ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.
  • Loss of Blood - As blood contains iron, excessive blood lossor chronic bleeding can prove to be more dangerous as there is loss of iron and it is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia. As women lose a lot of blood during heavy periods, they are at a higher risk of developing this disease.
  • Other infections and diseases - Iron deficiency anemia can also be caused by peptic ulcer, colorectal cancer, kidney or bladder tumor, uterine fibroids etc. Intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease affects iron absorption from the digested food and this disorder generally leads to iron deficiency anemia.
  • Drugs & Medications - Regular use of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding which may cause iron deficiency anemia. Excessive blood loss is generally due to loss of blood, surgery or accidents.  
  • Less iron content in diet - A healthy diet plays a key role in maintaining adequate iron level in our body. Hence if we consume diet less in iron, body can become iron deficient. Infants and children need iron from their diet for proper growth and development.
  • Unhealthy habits - Cigarette smoking also increases the chances for anemia because carboxyhemoglobin formed from carbon monoxide during smoking has no oxygen-carrying capacity.
  • Pregnancy - Pregnant or breast feeding women often test positive for iron deficiency anemia because during the phase of pregnancy, the requirement of iron increases and generally it is not met through their regular diet. Iron is crucial for the growing fetus to develop red blood cells, muscle and blood vessels.

Iron deficiency anemia symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms associated with iron deficiency anemia, although if the anemia is of the milder variety, it may be difficult to detect. In cases of chronic anemia, initially the body may adapt and compensate for the change, displaying fewer symptoms until the anemia becomes more severe.

Children suffering from iron deficiency anemia have poor concentration and can have a negative effect on the child’s growth, causing behavioral and learning difficulties. Iron deficiency anemia is more common in infants and adolescents, particularly girls.

Some common symptoms include

  • fatigue & weakness
  • lack of physical energy
  • shortness of breath
  • lightheadedness
  • palpitations
  • paleness
  • dizziness
  • sore tongue
  • brittle nails
  • loss of appetite especially in children etc

People suffering from this disease may also have an uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in legs or unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or pure starch.

Pregnant women have an increased risk of fetal growth retardation. Women suffering from iron deficiency anemia, especially those in the age group 40 and above, develop a condition known as Plummer-Vinson syndrome, in which they have difficulty swallowing due to small web-like growths in the food pipe. In cases of severe anemia, the symptoms may involve rapid heart rate, low blood pressure or even a heart failure.

Iron deficiency anemia in children

Growing children need to absorb an average of 1 mg of iron per day to keep up with their rapid growth and development. As a result children are often more prone to developing iron deficiency anemia due to inadequate consumption of iron content.

Iron deficiency anemia is a decrease in the number of red blood cells due to a lack of iron and in children it may lead to behavioral disturbances, developmental delays, failure to thrive and infections.

Babies, toddlers, preschoolers and teenagers are at a risk of developing iron deficiency anemia because their need for increased iron intake may not be met through their diet.

Recent studies have shown that children only absorb about 10% of the iron from their diet. These studies also indicate that most children should receive 8-10 mg of iron per day for steady growth and mental development.

Children suffering from mild iron deficiency anemia may suffer from sore throat, headache, decreased appetite, irritability pale skin color, unusual food cravings, etc. The white part of the eyes can take on a bluish tint.

In severe cases, iron deficiency in children can lead to poisoning or slow bleeding. Excessive milk intake can lead to iron deficiency as it irritates the intestines and leads to iron loss. Cow's milk also can cause problems in the intestine that lead to blood loss and increased risk of anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia Ferritin

Most of the iron which is absorbed or consumed by the body passes through the plasma for re-utilization. However, the excess iron content is stored in the body as ferritin or hemosiderin.

Ferritin act as buffer against iron deficiency as, its structure is extremely important for the protein’s capability to store and release iron in a controlled fashion. If blood has low iron count, Ferritin can release more iron and it can also help store and manage excess iron in the body.

When a person is iron deficient but has a normal hemoglobin level, then he is said to be iron deficient without anemia. Iron deficiency with anemia is when a person has low values of both serum Ferritin and hemoglobin.

Iron deficiency, infection, chronic inflammation, malignancy or conditions causing organ or tissue damage may cause ferritin levels to be normal or elevated, since it is an acute phase protein.

Low hemoglobin in addition to a low serum ferritin (<15uL) may result in iron deficiency anemia. Serum Ferritin is the most crucial and important lab test for iron deficiency anemia. Anemia in menstruating women, a low serum iron level, high total iron binding capacity (TIBC), an elevated transferrin levels can be diagnosed by serum ferritin lab test.

How can we prevent Iron deficiency anemia?

A healthy diet as well as regular exercise goes a long way in keeping a person healthy. In addition consumption of nutritious foods also boosts the overall immunity of the body helping keep iron deficiency anemia as well as other ailments at bay.

  • Iron deficiency anemia Diet

Iron deficiency anemia can be best avoided by eating a wide variety of healthy foods which are rich in iron content. Fruits such as apples, bananas, apricots and plums; vegetables such as yams, squash, asparagus, broccoli and leafy vegetables, tofu, whole grains etc. all help in building the body’s resistance against this disease. Beef, pork, lamb, liver, and other organ meats, chicken, duck, turkey, liver are the best sources of iron. Legumes, such as lima beans and green peas; dry beans and peas, such as pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and canned baked beans provide enough iron in the diet.
Iron absorption

To prevent iron deficiency anemia, iron absorption in the body is vital. Iron rich foods, high in vitamin C, should be included in the regular diet. Sugar consumption should be reduced considerably or even omitted. Avoid using any antacids as they interfere with iron absorption. Coffee and black tea should also be avoided as they contain polyphenols and tannin which interfere with iron absorption. Skipping meals and irregular dietary habits should be discouraged.

  • Iron deficiency anemia  supplements

If the diet lacks in iron content, taking iron supplements can lower the risk of iron deficiency anemia,. To boost iron absorption, iron supplements should be taken with liquids other than milk, coffee, tea or phosphate-containing carbonated beverages such as soft drinks. Iron supplements also minimize side effects caused due to gastrointestinal intolerance and these supplements can correct low iron levels within months.

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AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

By Michael Okubena

Autoimmune diseases also referred to as collagen vascular diseases or autoimmunity are disorders where the body's immune system reacts against some of its own cells and produces antibodies to attack it. These disorders are classified into two types, organ-specific (directed mainly at one organ) and non-organ-specific (widely spread throughout the body). Autoimmune diseases keep the healthy body from releasing an immunological army that destroys all healthy cells it encounters.

The human immune system is a protection mechanism which defends the body against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites that try to invade the human body. Our immune system can detect viruses, parasitic worms and differentiate them from healthy cells and tissues, required for the normal functioning of the body. Due to autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly attacks self, targeting the cells, tissues, and organs of a person's own body.

Autoimmune diseases are currently ranked as the third biggest disease category in the US behind heart disease and cancer. According to several studies patients with these disorders are more likely to have a relative with an autoimmune disease, but they do not necessarily have the same type of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disorders may result in destruction of one or more types of body tissue, abnormal growth of an organ or change in organ function. Organs and tissues such as red blood cells, blood vessels, endocrine glands, connective tissues, joints, skin and muscles are commonly targeted by autoimmune diseases.

There are over 100 different autoimmune diseases and these are mainly caused by the immune system attacking different organs of our body. Their treatment is essentially the same, since all these diseases have similar method of action. The common types of autoimmune diseases that affect most people have been listed and described below.

Autoimmune disorders /Types of autoimmune diseases

Types of autoimmune diseases include:

  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease/Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Autoimmune pancreatitis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Addison’s disease
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia

Excessive red blood cell destruction anemia or Hemolytic anemia causes the red blood cells to die early (generally they live for 110-120 days) which are removed through the spleen. To compensate for this loss, the bone marrow produces more red blood cells than normal, and if the bone marrow cannot keep up with the red blood cell production, it may lead to hemolysis.

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia or Hemolysis can also be caused due to immune reactions, infections as well as some medications and toxins. The severity of this disease depends on the main causes such as cytomegalovirus, hepatitis, HIV and lupus. This disorder may develop gradually or even suddenly causing serious symptoms.

  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis/Autoimmune thyroid disease

Autoimmune Thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to become enlarged, due to an attack of antibodies and is the most common type of Thyroiditis. This disease causes the cells of the thyroid gland to become inefficient for converting iodine into thyroid hormone which eventually cause the thyroid gland to grow more than the normal size.

Autoimmune Thyroiditis can lead to goiters which appear on the front neck and are developed due to extremely swollen thyroid gland. It makes the gland incapable to produce adequate thyroid hormone for the body. Goiters are usually caused due to iodine deficiency.

The common symptoms associated with this disorder are weight gain, weakness, abnormal growth, pale skin, heavy menstrual periods, aching muscles, aches in the legs and feet, depression, puffiness in the face, irritation etc. In severe cases it can result in all manner of complications including heart disease, serious depression, lowered interest in sexual activity, higher incidence of birth defects for children of mothers with untreated Hashimoto’s, and development of fatal conditions.

  • Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic liver disease where body’s immune system attacks the liver and causes it to become inflamed. This disease is classified into two forms, Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis and Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis.

Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis is common among young women and is often associated with other autoimmune diseases.  Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis is less common and generally affects girls between the ages of 2 and 14. Due to this disease, auto antibodies circulating in the bloodstream cause the immune system to attack the liver, as immune cells treats liver’s normal cell as foreign tissue or disease causing agent (pathogen). The disease is usually quite serious and, if not treated, gets worse over time.

Common symptoms associated with this disorder are an enlarged liver, jaundice, itching, skin rashes, joint pain, abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine; pale or gray-colored stools etc. In severe cases it can even lead to liver cirrhosis, ascites and in worse condition it can even lead to liver failure. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, autoimmune hepatitis can be controlled.

  • Autoimmune pancreatitis

Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP), is a rare autoimmune disorder, and was first identified in Japan in 1955, described as a new form of chronic pancreatitis. It is also referred to by a variety of names including sclerosing pancreatitis, tumefactive pancreatitis and nonalcoholic destructive pancreatitis.  

This autoimmune disorder develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing ongoing inflammation and potentially serious complications not only to the pancreas but also to the bile ducts, salivary glands, kidneys and lymph nodes.

  • Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a disease, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin which causes glucose levels in the blood to increase, instead of being used for energy. The immune cells of the immune system attack particular cells in the pancreas which are known as beta cells. Beta cells play a vital role in the production of insulin, which is a hormone that helps the body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it is most often diagnosed in children, adolescents, or young adults. This disease cannot be prevented but can be controlled by taking insulin injections on a daily basis so that blood sugar level remains normal. People with type 1 diabetes should eat at about the same times each day and try to be consistent with the types of food they choose. This help prevent blood sugar from becoming extremely high or low.

Some of the common symptoms for type 1 diabetes include weight loss, excessive thirst, feeling hungry, fatigue, losing the feeling or feeling tingling in the feet. It may also lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) due to insulin intake by a diabetic person.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) causes the synovial joints to become thickened and inflamed and may also affect other organs of the body. If the synovial fluid sticks around too long after working out, it can cause cracks in the cartilage, ice helps get the fluid out of the joint and into the lymphatic system, which is the garbage disposal of the body. Generally, women are more at risk of being affected by rheumatoid arthritis than men.  

It is a chronic illness in which patients may experience long periods without any symptoms and has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disability. Joints play a vital role in fluid movement of human body and hence require careful attention. But when they get diseased or injured, the resulting pain can severely limit a person’s ability to work and move.  

Obese, overweight people are more at risk of having joint related problems, as bones and joints are under heavy stress and tension due to the extra weight of the body.

Drinking ginger tea at bed time is particularly recommended for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Application of ice to the joints can help in reducing pain and swelling.

  • Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic nervous system disorder which is the cause of nontraumatic disability among young and middle aged people. It is generally caused by destruction of the myelin insulation covering nerve fibers in the central nervous system and affects movement, sensations and vital body functions.  

Some patients experience such mild symptoms that they do not notice anything until much later in the course of the disease. Weakness, numbness, pain, disturbances of speech or vision, parasthesias, ataxia, tremor, dizziness, bladder or bowel dysfunction, fatigue, cognitive problems and depression are some of the common symptoms associated with this disorder.

  • Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a joint condition that occurs mainly due to the complications of psoriasis (a chronic skin disorder with the appearance of raised, red, roughened patches covered by silvery shiny scales). Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also get psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory joint disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and restrictive mobility.

This type of joint condition usually affects people, both men and women, in the ages of 30-50. It has been noticed that white colored people are more likely to get Psoriatic arthritis than black colored people.  It usually affects joints in an asymmetric manner but may sometimes also affect joints in a symmetric fashion, similar to rheumatoid arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis can be divided into 5 types mainly Asymmetric arthritis (it is the most common form of psoriatic arthritis where the joint inflammation in joints does not follow a typical pattern), Spondylitis (also called spondyloarthropathy and  involves inflammation in the joints between the spinal vertebrae), Symmetric arthritis (also called symmetric polyarthritis and involves inflammation in the same joints on both sides of the body), Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP) arthritis (also called distal arthritis which occurs in the fingers and/or toes, usually affecting the joints closest to the fingernails and toenails) and Arthritis mutilans (a very rare type but devastating form of psoriatic arthritis that can destroy joints, especially of the hands, feet, back or neck ,resulting in deformity).

  • Lupus

Lupus is a chronic disorder which causes the immune system of the human body to attack normal tissues, especially the skin, joints blood and kidneys. This disorder cannot differentiate between the foreign bodies and body’s own healthy organ and tissues and thus starts making harmful antibodies that attack its own organs and tissues.

This is a disease that is usually hereditary, but in some cases there is no family history of Lupus.  Lupus normally develops between 15 and 40 years of age.  Common symptoms include painful or swollen joints and muscle pain, unexplained fever, "Butterfly" rashes most commonly across the bridge of nose and cheeks, chest pain, unusual hair loss, swelling, or edema, in the legs or around the eyes, swollen glands and extreme fatigue.

There are generally four types of Lupus: 

  • Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a type of lupus which causes flares and followed by periods of wellness, called remission. It generally affects different organs and tissues and causes fluctuating pain; hence a person suffering from this disease at times feels better and other time feel terrible pain.

  • Discoid Lupus

Discoid lupus is chronic disease which affects the skin with red scaling rash that leads to scarring. This disorder can lead to SLE. It causes ugly rashes on the face, and may also result in severe hair loss and scarring of the scalp. Discoid lupus is not completely curable as it may reoccur at some point of time.

  • Neonatal Lupus

This disease is common seen among new born babies as mother affected by lupus passes harmful antibodies (SSA/Ro and SSA/La) to the fetus through placenta. This disorder leads to anemia and decrease in platelet count due to the destruction of red blood cells and platelets by these harmful antibodies.

  • Drug Induced Lupus

This disorder is caused due to the use of certain drugs and affects central nervous system and kidneys. Drug induced lupus have symptoms similar to SEL. Use of drugs such as minocycline, laniazid, nydrazid, aldomet and promine usually cause this disorder. In some cases this disorder can be completely resolved by avoiding the use of drugs that cause this disorder.

  • Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease which affects adrenal glands which are located above each kidney. These two glands produce essential hormones known as cortisol and aldosterone. In this disorder the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues which hampers the production of these essential hormones and thus cause harmful effects on the body.

Chronic infection, tuberculosis, amyloidosis are some of the causes that lead to destruction of adrenal glands. Common symptoms associated with this disorder are nausea, depression, irritability, darkening of skin, dizziness, vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite etc.

  • Pernicious anemia

Pernicious anemia also known as Biermer's anemia is a form of megablastic anemia which is caused by impaired uptake of vitamin B 12 due to the lack of intrinsic factor (IF) in the gastrointestinal tract. In this case large, immature, nucleated cells known as mega oblasts circulate in the blood, and do not function as blood cells. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the proper development of red blood cells. 

Pernicious anemia that occurs at birth is inherited and the person having this disease tends to inherit two copies of defective genes; one from each parent. This disease begins slowly and mainly occurs in children. This type of anemia usually does not appear before age 30 in adults. The disease was named pernicious anemia because it was fatal before treatment became available. It was first available as a, liver therapy and then as purified vitamin B12 therapy. 

Cobalamin deficiency, macrocytic anemia and other neurological complications are some of the disorders that are associated with insufficient absorption and metabolism of vitamin B12, which is mainly cause due to pernicious anemia. The common symptoms of pernicious anemia include bleeding gums, diarrhea, fatigue, sore mouth, and impaired sense of smell, loss of appetite, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath.  Other symptoms of pernicious anemia may include pale or yellowish skin, a low-grade fever, and dizziness when standing up. In severe cases pernicious anemia can also lead to heart failure and cancer.

Autoimmune disease symptoms

Autoimmune disease is classified into two types, organ-specific (directed mainly at one organ) and non-organ-specific (widely spread throughout the body). Autoimmune disease keeps the healthy body from releasing an immunological army that destroys all healthy cells it encounters.

The most common symptoms include:

  • extreme fatigue
  • muscle and joint pain
  • swollen glands
  • inflammation
  • infections
  • low blood sugar
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • memory problems
  • pre-menstrual syndrome etc.

Pregnant women have an increased risk of fetal growth retardation. People suffering from this disease may also have an uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in legs or unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances.

The symptoms of an autoimmune disease depend on what part or parts of the body are mistakenly attacked by the immune system. For some people the condition of disease could be mild and may not show any signs or symptoms of the disease but in case of severe condition it can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune Thyroiditis. In severe cases it can also lead to cancer, as healthy tissues and cells are destroyed by body’s immune system.

Autoimmune disease prevention

Well-balanced dietary intake is necessary to maintain the general well-being of patients suffering from any type of autoimmune diseases. It is also important that the patient receive all available immunizing agents and nutritional deficiencies should be corrected when present.

  • Diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables as they provide disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is one of the vital vitamins which help to fight infection and improves ability of the cells to digest viruses and toxins.  Citrus fruits and their juices, acai berries, goji berries, grape seed extract are best sources of Vitamin C.
  • Foods such as fish and eggs are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are essential in strengthening immune cells and reduce inflammatory interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 cells. 
  • To deal with autoimmune one should, take rest, avoid alcohol, avoid physical and emotional stress, avoid sources of bacterial, viral and fungal infection.
  • The person suffering from autoimmune disease should also increase the fluid intake to one and a half to two times the usual amount. The additional fluids increase the fluid volume and encourage mobilization of the abnormal red cells.
  • One should get plenty of sleep as without sleep our body's disease-fighting defenses are weakened, enabling a cold or flu virus to wreak havoc on body.
  • Maintaining personal hygiene (such as washing hands before eating, avoiding eating stale food, taking regular bath etc) is of outmost importance in keeping autoimmune diseases at bay.

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IMMUNE SYSTEM VITAMINS

By Michael Okubena

A healthy and robust immune system is vital for good health and fitness. Vitamins provide the building blocks that help keep our body healthy. Some vitamins are especially beneficial in boosting our immune system, strengthening its natural resistance power. These vitamins provide the necessary boost to the immune system helping the body fight against several infections and diseases.

A strong immune system is necessary as it attacks invading microbes, pathogen, infections and other microorganisms. Our Immune system produces antibodies which help in destroying these antigens. If the immune system is not supplemented with required nutrients and vitamins, it will collapse and lose the ability to fight against infections.

The immune system is mainly affected if the diet lacks in essential vitamins. Adequate intake of vitamins not only ensures a healthy immune system but also supports and maintains cardiovascular, nervous system and skin health. Necessary Immune system vitamins also assist in the production of white blood cells, which provide excellent immunity against illness and diseases.

Vitamins which are rich in natural antioxidants prevent the damage done by oxidative stress caused due to large numbers of free radicals. Oxidative stress and free radicals increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and weaken the immune system.

Vitamins are classified according to fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins. The vitamins which can dissolve in fats and can be stored in the body are known as fat soluble vitamins namely A, D, E and K. Some vitamins need to be dissolve in water before the body can absorb them. These vitamins are known as water soluble vitamins namely C, B6, B 12, niacin, riboflavin and folate.

Recurring infections, slow wound healing, allergies, thrush, colds, and flu are some of the common symptoms which are associated with a weak immune system. If the immune system is not supplemented with essential vitamins and nutrients over a long period of time, it can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, joint complications and even cancer. Sleep is important not only for rest and rejuvenation, but also for supporting and strengthening the immune system. Avoiding stress, including a well nourished diet and regular exercise will goes a long way in maintaining health and boosting immunity.

Immune system vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are crucial for the normal growth and development of the body. They provide essential nutrients, which are needed to perform certain complex functions in the body.

Immune system minerals play an important role with respect to energy metabolism, collagen formation, bone/teeth mineralization, antioxidant activities, detoxification, cell excitability, and blood clotting.  Immune system minerals also play a key role in overall development of the body.

Minerals such as calciumphosphorus and potassium help to build strong bones and teeth and also assist by releasing energy from food. Selenium is a powerful immune system mineral which helps to boost fertility, prevent damage to cells and tissue and also supports thyroid hormone metabolism.

Vitamin K is a potent immune system vitamin which aids coagulation, helping blood to clot, preventing excess loss of blood during an injury or accidents. Antioxidants which are found in substances such as Vitamin EVitamin C or beta carotene play a crucial role in maintaining and nourishing healthy skin tone by reducing wrinkles and preserving the skin’s natural health.

Vitamins and their metabolites are essential for a large number of physiological processes since they act as regulators of tissue’s growth and differentiation. Immune system vitamins also decrease inflammation and immune mediated tissue damage. They stimulate the immune response by activating T-cells, which protect the body against viruses and cancer cells.  It also contains polysaccharides, which are chemicals known to boost the immune system.

The B-complex vitamins are essential for the production of energy by the body's cells, including cells of the immune system. Immune system vitamins and minerals provide excellent immune support by fighting infections, maintaining mental alertness, helping with blood clotting, forming red blood cells, and promoting good vision.

Best immune system vitamin boosters

Vitamins maintain the overall wellbeing of the immune system. They play a major role in keeping our immune system strong, fighting against viruses, germs and other harmful substances. Immune system vitamins help to regulate body’s metabolism and assist in forming bone and tissue. If the body is not supplemented with necessary vitamins, then the immune system would collapse and eventually it will lose its resistance to fight against infection and other diseases.

If the body is deprived of these vitamins for a long period of time it can result in impaired bone growth, blindness, dry skin and in severe cases it can even lead to cancer or cardiovascular complications. Vitamins such as A, B, C, D, E, and K are important immune system vitamins that assist in boosting the immunity of the body.

Let’s take a look at some of the main Vitamins that help maintain a healthy and strong immune system.

Immune system Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A is crucial for a healthy immune system as it helps in the growth and repair of body tissues.
  • It also helps keep eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist and neutralize free radicals in the body that can cause tissue and cellular damage.
  • Diet rich in Vitamin A can reduce the risk of lung and certain types of lung cancers.
  • Vitamin A eliminates free radicals that create age spots, wrinkles, and depress the immune system. By eliminating these free radicals, they keep the skin tone healthy and well nourished.
  • Eggs, milk, cheese, butter, all green, carrots, mustard greens, collards, escarole and yellow vegetables are some of the best source of Vitamin A.

Immune system Vitamin B

  • Vitamin B is powerful immune system vitamin which plays a crucial role in the normal working of the nervous system, heart and muscles.
  • Vitamin B1 helps to generate energy and promotes growth. It helps in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fat. B1 also help to fight heart disease, tumor growth and reverse the process of aging and increase longevity.
  • Vitamin B2 assists in the formation of antibodies which help fight invading microbes or infections. It helps to maintain good vision, nourished skin and healthy hair.
  • Vitamin B6 is the building block of proteins and is necessary for synthesis and breakdown of amino acids.
  • Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. B12 helps reduce age related vision loss as it improves the functions of blood vessels in the eye.
  • Vitamin B is most important during the periods of cell division, growth and also helps to synthesize and repair DNA.  B vitamins play a crucial role in the production of healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia. 
  • Niacinamide is type of Vitamin B which helps metabolize fat, protein and sugar as well as reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

 Immune system Vitamin C

  • Vitamin C facilitates the production of glutathione, which is useful for boosting immune system
  • Vitamin C is known to prevent oxidation of low density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol and thus stop the development of fatty buildups in the arteries.
  • It protects the body and the skin against harmful environmental pollutants.
  • It plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones, teeth and gums.
  • It is a key immune system vitamin and a potent radical fighter.
  • It has a crucial role in the collagen formation and other essential substances.
  • It is also involved in white blood cell production.
  • It helps to regulate blood pressure.
  • Orange, lemons, kiwi fruits, strawberries, mangos and frozen peas are some of the best sources of Vitamin C.

Immune system Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is required for bone and teeth formation and helps prevent bone degeneration.
  • It also helps in the utilization and absorption of phosphorus and calcium.
  • It helps to prevent bone softening diseases such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults
  • It aids in bone and tooth formation and supports muscle and stable immune function.
  • Vitamin D plays a crucial role in triggering the body's T cells to fight off invading bacteria and viruses which can cause disease.
  • Exposure to early morning sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D. In addition to this, eggs, cheese, milk, tuna fish, salmon, mackerel, liver, beef and sardines as well as supplements and multivitamins are the best sources of Vitamin D.

Immune system Vitamin E

  • Vitamin E is a potent immune system vitamin and has excellent antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals in the body that can cause tissue and cellular damage.
  • Vitamin E helps in preventing sterility.
  • Vitamin E assists in the formation of red blood cells and muscle tissues
  • They also reduce stress and muscle damage which is caused due to physical activity.
  • Vitamin E also helps prevent anemia and other blood related disorder.
  • It also helps boost fertility, especially in men.
  • Vegetables oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, peanuts, broccoli and shrimps are good sources of Vitamin E.

Immune system Vitamin K

  • Vitamin K is the vital for coagulation.  It helps blood to clot and thus stops continuous bleeding. 
  • It is also essential for proper functioning of kidneys and bone growth.
  • It prevents calcification of arteries and other soft tissue. 
  • Vitamin K reduces the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. 
  • Vitamin K plays an important role in blood sugar regulation. 
  • It also reduces the risk of internal bleeding in liver. 
  • It also helps to avoid menstrual cramps, pain and enhances functioning of liver. 
  • Olive oil, broccoli, raw spinach, soybean, cauliflower and raw lettuce leaf are excellent sources of Vitamin K

Healthy immune system vitamins

A healthy immune system can help our body withstand damage from anti-biotic resistant bacteria and prevent the reoccurrence of pathogens. Vitamins are necessary to keep immune system healthy and robust. The most important vitamins for immune system health can be found in a well-balanced diet.  Vitamins such as A, B, C, D, E, and K play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

Deficiency of these vitamins can cause anemia, balance and memory problems, chronic fatigue, poor mood, and cardiovascular problems.  Prolonged vitamin deficiency can lead to nerve degeneration and irreversible neurological damage.

Vitamins play a vital role by protecting the body against free radicals and also help to keep the mucous membrane healthy. Immune system vitamins also provide the necessary immune boost that helps the immune system to recognize new virus strains, which are generally overlooked by a weakened immune system. They not only enhance immune system but also help to fight against cancerous cells by producing macrophages. Vitamins also help in preventing the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer disease and cataracts.

Immune System vitamins for kids

A healthy diet along with some dietary supplements or fortified foods can be useful sources of nutrients and vitamins for children. Foods rich in nutritious value provide variety of nutrients and compounds that have many beneficial health effects.

Vitamins provide the necessary support to the immune system by helping in calcium absorption for children's healthy teeth and bones. They prevent loss of bone mass and cures bone disorders.

Vitamins play an important role in brain development and improve a child’s emotional development and gross motor coordination.

Vitamins such as A, B (including B complex), C, D, E, and K not only ensure full growth and development of children but also help keep a robust immune system. Some of the immune system vitamins also assist in the formation of antibodies which help to fight invading microbes or infections in children and infants.

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B CELLS DEFINITION

By Michael Okubena

B cells are the defender cells of our body which produce antibodies to protect us from diseases and infections. They then enter the blood and circulate through our bodies. The basic function of B cells is to produce antibodies in response to foreign proteins such as viruses, bacteria and tumor cells. Each is specific to a particular site on an antigen. B cells are derived from bone marrow and then develop into plasma. These cells not only fight infection but also generate memory cells, which help in recognizing specific invaders and launch an attack against them if they are encountered again. B cells act as the defending army of the human immune system providing a shield against several diseases and viruses. These cells, present in the spleen, help to produce antibodies that destroy old red blood cells.

Receptor-mediated endocytosis is a process in which antigen molecules are engulfed by the B cells. This process in initiated when B cell receptor (BCR) bind to a particular bacterial antigen. During this process, these antigens are broken down into peptide fragments and are then displayed at the surface of a molecule known as Class II MHC.

When B cells encounter their antigens and receive an additional signal from T cells, they further differentiate into two types of B cells i.e. Plasma B cells and Memory B cells. Whenever an antigen is T- dependent, T cell help is required for antibody production and the signal for activation comes from B cell receptor (BCR) and Th2 cell. There are some antigens which are T cell independent and they deliver the antigen as well as the second signal to the B cells. B cells will not produce antibodies unless they are activated.

B cells function

The basic function of B cells is to produce antibodies to protect the body against foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria and tumor cells. B cells help our body to withstand damage from anti-biotic resistant bacteria and prevent the reoccurrence of pathogens hiding in the body like herpes that causes cold sores and mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis.

Another primary role of B cells is to produce antigens and perform the vital role of antigen presenting cells (APC’s). When B cells get activated they develop into memory cells by interacting with the antigens.

B cells receptor (BCR)

B cells receptor or BCR is a unique receptor protein which is present on the surface of each B cell that binds to the specific antigen. B cells are not thymus dependent but are responsible for the production of immunoglobin and express immunoglobin on their surface. The foreign antigens circulating in the bloodstream are destroyed by the antibodies produced by the B cells. Generally each B cell produces one specific antibody and when it gets activated by an antigen, it produces large cells known as plasma cells which produce antibodies.

B cells also play a vital role in maintaining immune tolerance because it prevents the immune system from attacking its own fellow cells. These cells are useful in adaptive immunity as well as autoimmunity. B cells and their antibodies, both natural and adaptive, play a fundamental role in the immediate and future defense against microbes.

B cells types

  • Plasma B cells

Plasma B cells are produced when the B cells are exposed to a specific antigen. Plasma cells help to produce antibodies which assist in the destruction of microbes by binding to them. They differentiate from B cells upon stimulation by CD4+ lymphocytes. Plasma cells play a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system by secreting large amount of antibodies.

  • Memory B cells

Memory B cells store the information of antibodies that are needed to tackle specific antigens. These cells then divide into plasma cells, which produces antibodies. These antibodies help in the destruction of microbes or antigens by binding to them. If the same antigen are detected in the body again, the memory cells are activated and they rapidly divide by mitosis.

  • B 1 cells

These cells are the subclass of B cells which are produced in the fetus. These cells show preferential responses to T cell-independent antigens and operate in the innate response to infection by viruses and bacteria. The B receptor cells of conventional B2 cells are more diverse than B1 cells. These cells express high levels of surface IgM (Immunoglobulin M), low levels of, low levels of IgD (Immunoglobulin D) and, express low level of CD5. There are increased numbers of B1 cells in people suffering from some autoimmune disorders. B1 cells can be further differentiated into B1 a cells and B1 b cells.

  • B cells lymphoma

B cells are vital immune system cells as they play a distinct role in defending the immune system. White blood cells are divided into T cells and B cells. These cells develop and mature in the lymph nodes. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the lymphocytes of the immune system forming a solid tumor of lymphoid cells. In lymphoma B cells tends to grow abnormally due to genetic disorder. These abnormal B cells become cancerous and subsequently clone themselves which causes the cancerous cells to proliferate. There are different types of lymphoma and they are categorized according to the appearance and condition of the cancerous B cells. As B cells develop and mature in lymph nodes, these nodes appear to be swollen since cancerous cells rapidly divide in these areas.

A look at some of the major types of B cell lymphomas:

  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Earlier known as Hodgkin's disease and named after Thomas Hodgkin who was the first to report the abnormalities in the lymph system, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer of the white blood cells called lymphocytes.  The disease spreads in an orderly manner from one lymph node group to another and displays systemic symptoms with advanced disease. Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells, when examined under a microscope, display multinucleated Reed-Sternberg cells (RS cells). 

Generally Hodgkin’s Lymphoma occurs either in youngsters in the age groups of 15-35 or in people over the age of 55. It is one of the rare forms of cancer that is curable and the chances of survival are almost 90%, if the disease is detected in its early stages. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is also one of the few forms of cancer that can be cured even in advanced stages.   Generally, the mode of treatments includes chemotherapy or radiation therapy.  Many patients who are successfully treated and enter remission generally go on to live long lives. Studies have shown that patients with a history of infectious mononucleosis due to Epstein-Barr virus may have an increased risk of HL.

  • Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas or NHLs are a group of blood cancers that include any kind of lymphoma except Hodgkin's lymphomas.Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects immune system cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system that protects the body from infection and disease. This type of lymphoma generally develops in the lymph nodes and starts to proliferate in the blood, liver, spleen and bone marrow. It is more than five times as common as the other major type of lymphoma. Fatigue or weakness, high fever, chest pain, pain in the abdomen, heavy breathing, weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin are some of the common symptoms associated with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. There are about 35 different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and they are generally described by how quickly the cancer grows (low-grade, high-grade or aggressive).

  • Follicular Lymphoma

Follicular lymphoma is a cancer of B lymphocytes and it is generally classified as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This cancer starts to proliferate in the lymph nodes and then spreads into the blood and bone marrow. Liver and spleen are usually affected in more severe stages of follicular lymphoma.

Follicular lymphoma is the most common type of cancer which is not infectious and cannot be passed to other people. It develops slowly and often converts into diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

Lymph node swelling, fatigue, weight loss, fever, lump in neck, groin and armpit are some of the common symptoms that are associated with follicular lymphoma.

  • Burkitt’s Lymphoma

Burkitt’s lymphoma is a cancer of B cell lymphocyte and it usually affects children. The main cause of Burkitt’s lymphoma is linked to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and it is an uncommon type of Non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This virus also causes infectious mononucleosis. When B cells become cancerous and start to proliferate, they form malignant tumors.

If Burkitt’s lymphoma is diagnosed at early stages, the prognosis for patients could prove to be quite effective. The African population is at a higher risk of developing Burkitt’s lymphoma.

Endemic and sporadic are two main forms of Burkitt’s lymphoma. In case of Endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma, tumor usually grows along the jaw bone and Sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma mainly targets the intestine.

Fatigue or weakness, high fever, chest pain, pain in the abdomen, heavy breathing, weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin are some of the common symptoms associated with Burkitt’s lymphoma.

  • Marginal Zone Lymphomas

Marginal Zone lymphoma is a Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which is a relatively uncommon type of B cell lymphoma. This lymphoma develops when damaged immune system cells changes the behavior of the cells, leading to the abnormal production of proteins and causes sustained rapid cell division.

This cancer starts to proliferate in the area known as marginal zone which is present in B cells. Marginal zone lymphoma can be categorized into Nodal marginal lymphoma, Extranodal marginal lymphoma of mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and splenic marginal zone lymphoma.

Indigestion, weight loss, stomach bleeding and fatigue are some of the common symptoms of marginal zone lymphoma.

  • Mantle cell Lymphoma

Mantle Cell Lymphoma is an exceptional type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma which usually begins with lymph node area called as mantle zone enlargement and then spreads to other tissues such as the bone marrow, liver and gastrointestinal tract.

Men are at a higher risk of developing mantle cell lymphoma as compared to women. Mantle cell lymphoma is generally developed due to genetic disorder. This lymphoma is usually slow but can get aggressive over a period of time.

Patients suffering from mantle cell lymphoma may suffer from swollen glands, fever and night sweats. When the intestine is affected by this lymphoma, it can give rise to symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.

  • Large cell Lymphoma

Large cell lymphoma is the most common type of B cell lymphoma. This lymphoma is highly aggressive and generally affects the immune system cells of the body i.e. B cells and T cells. Large cell lymphoma affects adults as well as children.

Diffuse large cell, diffused mixed cell and Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma are some of the major types of large cell lymphoma. Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma (DLCL) is a common Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma which targets B cells. This lymphoma is more common in men as compared to women.

This lymphoma causes painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin due to enlarged lymph nodes. Unexplained weight loss, night sweats, fever and fatigues are the common symptoms associated with DLCL.

Diffused mixed cell lymphomas are the intermediate grade lymphomas of mixed cellular composition. Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma is an aggressive cancer which targets T cells of the immune system. The symptoms for Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma are similar to diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

B cells differentiation

B cells differentiation is a process by which B lymphocytes transform into plasma cells. B lymphocytes only express immunoglobin on its surface but do not produce antibodies. They produce antibodies only when B cell receptors (BCR) bind to a specific antigen. When BCR binds to an invading microbe, B cells multiply and differentiate into plasma cells which help to produce antibodies. When an antigen is T dependent, antibodies are produced with the help from T cells and the signal for activation comes from the BCR.

B cells Leukemia

B cells Leukemia also known as lymphoid leukemia is a blood cancer in which normal blood cells change and grow uncontrollably. The blood cells (Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) play an important role in carrying oxygen, fighting infections and help blood to clot.

This cancer affects the bone marrow, which helps to produce these vital immune cells. B cell leukemia develops when the white blood cells lose pieces of DNA and start to proliferate rapidly.

There are different types of lymphoid leukemia which affects B cells such as

  • acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • chronic lymphocytic anemia
  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • prolymphocytic leukemia
  • hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
  • chronic myeloid leukemia

Exposure to chemical carcinogens such as benzene is one of the major causes for lymphoid leukemia. Research has shown that extensive exposure to radiation can cause some types of leukemia, including acute and myeloid leukemia.  

 

B cells and T cells

B cells and T cells are two types of white blood cells which help boost the immune system by fighting diseases or infections that are caused due to invading microbes, pathogens, viruses or bacteria. These cells are specific to a particular antigen and are able to bind to a particular molecular structure. They are primary membrane proteins and are present in thousands of identical copies that are exposed at the cells surface.

The white blood cells known as lymphocytes, that include T-cells and B-cells, destroy antigens directly. The lymphocytes act as the defending army of the human immune system providing a shield against several diseases and viruses. T dependent antigens help the B cells by producing antibodies. When T cells and B cells starts to proliferate abnormally, they tend to get cancerous.

Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is a type of immune deficiency which is caused due to lack of B and T lymphocytes. Insufficient lymphocytes make it impossible for the immune system to fight against any infections. T cells are involved in killing viral infected cells, tumor cells and parasites whereas B cells produce antibodies to kill these viral infected cells. 

 

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APLASTIC ANEMIA

By Michael Okubena

Aplastic anemia is primarily a blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow fails to produce sufficient blood cells for circulation. It is a rare acquired disorder which is neither present at birth nor inherited but is developed later on.

The bone marrow is a sponge-like tissue inside the bones that makes vital stem cells which then further develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. People suffering from Aplastic anemia not only have low red blood cell count but they also lack in white blood cells and platelets, as bone marrow stem cells are damaged; this disorder is termed as pancytopenia.  Aplastic anemia is also referred to as bone marrow failure. It is more common in younger people but it can develop at any age.  

Aplastic anemia is a rare but serious condition that can result in various health complications such as arrhythmias, enlarged heart or even heart failure. It can be moderate or very severe. People with severe Aplastic anemia are at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding.Acquired Aplastic anemia may be caused by toxic chemicals, radiation or by idiosyncratic reactions or infections. In some cases there is no identifiable cause and the condition is then referred to as idiopathic Aplastic anemia.

Recent studies have reported that in the United States about 500-1,000 people develop Aplastic anemia every year.  Worse, in Asian countries the number of people affected by Aplastic anemia goes up by goes two to three times.

Aplastic anemia is a condition that can develop suddenly or slowly. But if not diagnosed in time and without proper treatment the disorder can assume serious proportions.  With increasing research and advent of medicines, Aplastic anemia can today be successfully overcome. Some cures for Aplastic anemia include stem cell transplants, blood or bone marrow transplants, and even blood transfusions.

Aplastic anemia causes

Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow produces insufficient blood cells: red cells, white cells and platelets. This disorder causes the hemoglobin level in the blood to drop due to low count of these blood cells. Lack in hemoglobin can lessen the oxygen binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule, resulting in anemia. Aplastic anemia has many causes and can occur for no known reason (idiopathic aplastic anemia) or from a previous illness or disorder. The disease is not contagious and although more common among younger people it can affect patients of any age.

  • High-dose radiation and chemotherapy treatments help in killing cancer cells but they also damage healthy cells, including stem cells in bone marrow which may lead to Aplastic anemia.
  • Auto immune disorders are also one of the main causes of Aplastic anemia.  An autoimmune disorder such as lupus is a condition where the immune system begins attacking healthy cells and stem cells in the bone marrow. Mothers suffering from Aplastic anemia during pregnancy may be related to an autoimmune disorder as stem cells in the bone marrow are targeted by the immune system itself.
  • Certain viral infections such as hepatitis, Epstein- Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B-19 and HIV affect bone marrow and play a major role in the development of Aplastic anemia in some people.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals may cause Aplastic anemia and these toxic chemicals are generally used in some insecticides and pesticides. Benzene is a carcinogen and toxic substance that when inhaled or ingested for a long period of time may leave lethal effects on the body.
  • Use of certain drugs or medications which are essential in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can cause Aplastic anemia.
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria is a rare immune system disorder which destroys red blood cells and forms defective platelets and is mainly caused due to Aplastic anemia. Around 30% of the people with Aplastic anemia have this rare disorder.
  • A rare immune disorder known as Fanconi’s anemia is an inherited disease which generally leads to Aplastic anemia. Children born with this disorder have stunted growth and underdeveloped limbs.

Aplastic anemia symptoms

A low red blood cell count can cause reduction in the oxygen delivery to every tissue in the body. There are many signs and symptoms associated with Aplastic anemia. Some common symptoms include

  • weakness
  • lack of physical energy
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • lightheadedness
  • palpitations
  • paleness
  • frequent or prolonged infections
  • unexplained or easy bruising etc.

Adequate Platelets count play an important role in blood clotting and low count produces symptoms like delay in blood clotting, nose bleeds, bleeding gums and heavy menstrual bleeding in women.

In cases of severe anemia, the symptoms may involve rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, change in stool color, pale or cold skin, jaundice, heart murmurs, enlargement of the spleen etc.

Aplastic Anemia in Children

Aplastic anemia is a disorder that is caused when the human body’s bone marrow does not produce enough red blood cells necessary for oxygen supply to all parts of the body. Generally this disorder is found among children and young adults but adults may also be affected by Aplastic anemia.

Studies have shown that Aplastic anemia in children has many causes; some causes are idiopathic, that means they occur sporadically for no known reason where as other causes may be due to infections, illnesses, diseases or previous disorders. Studies report that a large number of cases (nearly 50%-75%) of Aplastic anemia in children are caused sporadically and occur for no known reason. In cases where the disorder is acquired factors include

  • Exposure to radiation or toxic materials such as heavy metals
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
  • Previous history of acquired conditions such as HIV, hepatitis, Epstein-Barr virus etc
  • In some cases children may also inherit certain disorders (Fanconi anemia, amegakaryocytic thrombocytopenia, reticular dysgenesis, dyskeratosis congenital, familial Aplastic anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome etc) which make them susceptible to Aplastic anemia.

Aplastic anemia prognosis

Aplastic anemia is a serious illness and if left untreated can even prove fatal.  It can leave the patient utterly fatigued, and at higher risk of contacting infections and uncontrolled bleeding. Although, with correct and timely diagnosis and treatment the chances of recovery increase substantially.  In some cases where the patients are affected with mild Aplastic anemia the disorder may resolving itself. But the most common cause of concern is relapse of some previously controlled diseases.

Aplastic anemia can develop in any age, but it is more common in young adults.  Bone marrow transplants, (well matched) with regular follow up care, have been known to be successful in overcoming Aplastic anemia.  Immune suppression is another method used to treat Aplastic anemia for elderly patients who, due to frail health, are un able to undergo bone marrow transplant .

With science making huge strides in medicine research, many diseases previously considered fatal, such as Aplastic anemia, today have much better prognosis.

How can Aplastic anemia be prevented? 

  • Avoid exposure to chemicals and toxic materials - Aplastic anemia can be prevented by avoiding environments that expose a person to certain chemicals thus decreasing chances of developing the condition. People working in chemical factories, especially benzene which is a widely used industrial chemical in various manufacturing and chemical plants, should follow proper safety guidelines and avoid inhaling benzene to prevent Aplastic anemia.
  • Avoid chemically treated food products - Certain foods which are treated with insecticides have harmful chemicals which can increase the chances of developing Aplastic anemia and hence the consumer should avoid buying these chemically treated food products.
  • Take necessary precautions when working with hazardous chemicals - People who are engaged in automobile painting jobs should wear face mask as fumes from these products can cause brain damage as well as bone marrow problems which ultimately lead to Aplastic anemia.
  • Consult medical physicians while undergoing radiation or chemotherapy - Patients suffering from cancer should consult the doctor about the risk of Aplastic anemia as these people are at a higher risk of developing this disease due heavy radiations treatments and chemotherapy which are used to kill deadly cancer cells.
  • Eat healthy (iron rich foods) and exercise regularly - A healthy diet as well as regular exercise goes a long way in keeping a person healthy. In addition consumption of nutritious foods also boosts the overall immunity of the body helping keep Aplastic anemia as well as other ailments at bay.

Aplastic anemia can be best avoided by eating a wide variety of healthy foods which are rich in iron content. Fruits such as apples, bananas, apricots and plums; vegetables such as yams, squash, asparagus, broccoli and leafy vegetables, tofu, whole grains etc. all help in building the body’s resistance against Aplastic anemia.

To avoid Aplastic anemia, iron absorption in the body is vital. Iron rich foods, high in vitamin C, should be included in the regular diet. Sugar consumption should be reduced considerably or even omitted. Avoid using any antacids as they interfere with iron absorption. Coffee and black tea contain should also be avoided as they contain polyphenols and tannin which interfere with iron absorption.

 

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