Why Should You Care About Dendrites?

Do you remember when you were in school and forced to learn all those things that you knew you would never use once you got out of school? Yeah, me too.

But surprise. There are now reasons you may wish you had paid more attention or at least had a better memory.

I vaguely remember high school science, let alone anything that may have been discussed in the class. When I say vague, I mean, vague as in the deep dark recesses of my mind. It may be there but it takes something extremely important to wake it from that frozen world. News this week did just that.

dendritic-cellDendritic cells. Do you remember hearing about them? Or other cells like monocytes, basophils, B cells, T cells? Reach deep if you have lupus. New research means they may be important to your life.

A new study published by the journal Nature Immunology just put dendritic cells on the map with regards to lupus.

It appears that dendritic cells are quite smart. Not only that but they go about our bodies educating the immune system teaching them things like what viruses are, what invaders look and act like, and in people without lupus, they even teach what normal cells of the body look like.

Doesn’t sound exciting yet? Read more.

One of the researchers involved in the study, Dr. Shalin Naik from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia said, “They tell the infection-fighting T cells and NK [natural killer] cells what a virus, bacterium, fungus or cancer looks like so they know what they’re looking for when fighting disease.” Dr. Naik has referred to dendritic cells as the ‘James Bond’ of the immune system.

“If we learn how to control dendritic cells, we could strengthen our immune response to infection when needed, or weaken the action of certain immune cells that attack the body’s own tissues in autoimmune disease.” added Dr. Naik.

Having more insight about dendritic cells may offer new methods to manipulate the immune system by either boosting the immune response to threatening infections or vaccines, or by reducing the immune response in the case of autoimmune diseases like lupus.

I was teachable in school and still am – if it’s something I’m interested in. I’m interested in lupus. I can only hope my cells are still teachable and willing to learn. It would be great if my dendritic cells could teach my immune system to mind its own business and play nice with other cells in my immune system so my lupus would calm down, or dare I hope, even go away.

From the life of Wanda M. Argersinger

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