Duke University Medical Center researchers may have solved the mystery of why lymph nodes swell when the body fights infection. Their findings may redefine how the immune system functions, they said.
Their research, published in the December 2003 issue of Nature Immunology, centered on the role of mast cells. Mast cells are immune cells that are typically found just under the skin and in the lining of the intestine and lungs and were previously associated primarily with the induction of allergic reactions. The Duke researchers report that allergic reactions are only a side effect of mast cells’ much more important role as a regulator of the body’s immune system.
"Mast cells serve as the command post for the immune system during infections," said Soman Abraham, Ph.D., professor of pathology, associate professor of immunology and senior author of the paper. "White blood cells are sequestered within these nodes and, following proper activation, they can specifically target infectious agents and aid the host in clearing unwanted pathogens."
Amy Austell | dukemed news
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