Your Natural Killer Immune Cell

Your Natural Killer Immune Cell
Christine L. Foutch Naturopathic Physician Rock Island, Illinois

Dr. Christine Foutch is a holistic physician practicing in Rock Island, IL. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent disease, treat disease, and most importantly promote optimal health.

For Educational Purposes

Resource: Anatomy and Physiology Textbook 6th Edition

Your Immune System

I bet you did not know that you have a "natural killer" circulating throughout your body.

The natural killer cells are, right now, out patrolling your body in the lymph and the bloodstream. This unique group of defensive cells has the ability to search out and destroy cells that have become infected, including cancer cells and virus-infected cells, even before the adaptive immune system has even been activated or alerted. 

The natural killer cells, also called the NK cells, are part of a small group of large granular lymphocytes. These are unlike the lymphocytes of the adaptive immune system, which have to be shown the invading pathogen before they can respond or be activated.

The NK cells are much less picky and are much quicker at responding, because they need not to be shown. They already see the problem. In fact, they have the ability to eliminate a variety of infected cells by just noticing any general abnormalities and responding to them.

There are identity markers on your cells that let the immune system recognize itself (meaning recognizing you). These markers alert the immune system, allowing the immune cells to survey and check into things, making sure that everything is going as planned.

However, if there is any lack of self (meaning the identity markers), this alerts the immune cell that this cell does not belong to the body and needs to go. At this point, the NK cells respond quickly.

The name "natural killer cell" is trying to explain the non-specificity. NK cells are not phagocytes. They do not kill by engulfing the pathogen/foreign substance; they actually target the cell and directly make contact with the cell and begin to secrete toxic poisonous proteins that induce programmed cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis.

However, there is more. Not only do the NK cells induce programmed cell death, they also begin the inflammatory process.

This alerts the adaptive immune system, calling it into action. That way, if there is a need, now there is adaptation and the immune system itself becomes smarter. Now, the production of antibodies can begin once the B cells take a look at the particles of the infected cell, and the B cells will show the regulatory T cells the pieces that the B cell found.

If it doesn't belong and if the NK cell found something that truly doesn't belong, the T cell will give permission to the B cell to go ahead and make the antibodies and memory cells.

More about Christine Foutch

Christine Foutch is a practicing Holistic Physician in Rock Island, Illinois. Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health.

Holistic physicians expend as much effort in establishing what kind of patient has a disease as they do in establishing what kind of disease a patient has, In this way, if people have imbalances (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in their lives, it can negatively affect their overall health.