Monday, August 23, 2010

How Inflammation Occurs in the Body and How It Can Go Terribly Wrong

How Inflammation Occurs in the Body and When it Goes Terribly Wrong.

How Inflammation Works
Researchers believe that the same system that causes inflammation around a wound
can, when the response becomes chronic, play an important role in a broad range
of illnesses, from heart disease to Alzheimer's.  Here is a very simplified, and
much magnified, look at the basic mechanism.

A splinter slices through the skin, damaging cells and allowing bacteria and other
pathogens into the body.  In the world in which our bodies evolved, pain almost
always signaled a microbial invasion.

A Body's Cry For Help
Mast cells release histamine and cytokines, which alert the body that something
is wrong.  Tiny blood vessels respond by developing leaks that allow other
immune cells to rush to the field of battle.

The Counterattack
Even before reinforcements arrive, prestationed macrophages start attacking
bacteria and damaged cells, using toxic chemicals like nitric oxide.

The Inner Battle
Specialized immune cells migrate to the wound.  Neutrophils engulf and destroy
bacteria and damaged tissue, more macrophages appear, and lymphocytes intensify
the immune system's repower.

The Healing
As the pathogens are eliminated, a new series of molecular messengers signals
victory.  A group of irregularly shaped cells called platelets, along with other
substances, forms clots and closes the wound.

How Inflammation Goes Wrong
If the inflammatory flares refuse to die down or are up for prolonged periods,
permanent damage may result.

Continuous Activation can occur.  
A long running, low grade infection, like gum disease, may keep immune cells
flared up, or there may be a breakdown in the complex series of checks and
balances that regulates the immune system.

Friendly Fire
Certain parts of the body are mistakenly selected by immune cells for attack.  
Macrophages start chewing up cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries,
or glial cells begin destroying neurons in the brain.

Chronic Illness
The body's efforts to heal the damage it created end up only making matters

source: Time Magazine - Inflammation, The Secret Killer.
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Pathogens - An agent that causes disease, especially a living microorganism such as a bacterium or fungus.
Histamine - An important protein involved in many allergic reactions.
Cytokines - Produced predominantly by activated immune cells such as microglia and are involved in the amplification of inflammatory reactions
Macrophages - Help destroy bacteria, key players in the immune response to foreign invaders such as infectious microorganisms.
Neutrophils - A type of white blood cell, filled with neutrally-staining granules, tiny sacs of enzymes that help the cell to kill and digest microorganisms
Glial Cells - Non-neural cells that perform "housekeeper" functions such as clearing out debris and excess materials.


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