Assay of phagocytic cell functions.
The fundamental role of the immune system is recognition of the self from the non-self; in this way the principal functions of the immune system can be summarized as: resistance against the cells and foreign substances which are potentially damaging the tissues; identification of neoplastic cells to be destroyed. The cells which have this role are essentially lymphocyte, neutrophils and macrophages: extracellular and cellular humoral factors also play their role into the inflammatory process. In fact, we define the normal responses of phagocyte as the capacity of the specific phagocytic cell to respond to various stimuli and to migrate to the location of the damage. This complex cellular defense mechanism comprises several steps that can be summarized as following: opsonization of particles to be ingested, adhesion and aggregation of phagocytes to vascular endothelium, migration of phagocytes through the vessel walls, chemotaxis of phagocytes towards pathogenic agents, recognition of the particles/antigens by the phagocytes which subsequently adhere to their surface, ingestion of the particles with formation of a phagosome. This process is completed with the fusion of the phagosome with cellular granules (lysosomes) and formation of phagolysosomes, degranulation and release of the enzyme laden granules into the phagolysosome, lysis and killing of ingested particles and bacteria. It is clear from this schematic summary, that the response to pathogens can be very complex and each of the processes involved in the above described steps could be deranged leading to various pathological changes. We analyze the most classical and new methods to study the physiopathology of granulocytes, which are important for clinical diagnosis of phagocyte diseases or for phagocytic dysfunction in various syndromes and in neoplastic patients.
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