NK Cell Function – What is it and why is it important for our pets?

NKcellsimage is of a NK cell attacking cancer cells –

When the immune system is operating at peak efficiency, it should be able to seek and destroy any undesirable cell anywhere in the body. You see, It simply does not matter to the immune system where that undesirable cell or foreign organism is or what it is called; if it is not supposed to be there, it will attack and destroy it. They serve to contain viral infections while the adaptive immune response is generating antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells that can clear the infection.

Natural killer cells (also known as NK cells, K cells, and killer cells) are a type of lymphocyte (a white blood cell) and a component of innate immune system. NK cells, like cytotoxic T cells, contain granules filled with potent chemicals. They are called “natural” killers because they, unlike cytotoxic T cells, do not need to recognize a specific antigen before swinging into action. They target tumor cells and protect against a wide variety of infectious microbes. In several immunodeficiency diseases, in our pets (and in humans) or in case of cancer, natural killer cell function becomes abnormal. Natural Killer Cells may also contribute to immunoregulation by secreting high levels of influential lymphokines

Both cytotoxic T Cells and Natural Killer Cells kill on contact. The killer binds to its target, aims its weapons and then delivers a lethal burst of chemicals that produces holes in the target cell’s membrane. Fluids seep in and leak out, and the cell bursts.

NK cell also play a role in adaptive immune response. Numerous experiments have worked to demonstrate their ability to readily adjust to the immediate environment and formulate antigen-specific immunological memory, fundamental for responding to secondary infections with the same antigen. The ability for NK cells to act in both the innate and adaptive immune response is becoming increasingly important in research utilizing NK cell activity and potential cancer therapies.    Read More

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