Natural Killer Cells and the Immune system
Natural Killer cells: what are they?
Natural Killer cells (NK cells) also called Lymphocytes NK, are cells of the immune system involved in recognizing and eliminating cancer cells, but also those infected by viruses. They produce cytokines, among which Interferon gamma (IFN-γ) is very important, the signal by which the innate component of the immune system recognizes the need to activate the inflammatory process in defense of the organism. Natural Killer cells are capable of destroying cancer cells, and being independent of specific immunity, they do not require activation and they can carry out their vital task immediately, becoming the first line of defense of the immune system. These are the characteristics which render them fundamental as a defense mechanism. When NK cells recognize cancer cells, they breach the cell membrane (thanks to perforin, a specific protein) and release cytotoxic proteases (granzymes), that in turn induce cancer cells to “suicide”, by means of apoptosis.
Natural Killer cells: Forza10 research
Recent research by our Research and Development Department, in collaboration with the immunologist, Prof. Giuseppe Terrazzano, from the Department of Science – University of Basilicata, appear to point out that this important defense army, very active in the control of cancer development, can be induced – in vitro – to excessive production of inflammatory cytokines (IFN-γ) by a toxic pollutant, oxytetracycline, which we already identified as a cytotoxic agent which triggers an exacerbation of the inflammatory cascade, resulting in tissue damage. Perhaps, more importantly, in vitro research on specific medicinal plants (about which SANYpet, via Dr. Gianandrea Guidetti, has in-depth knowledge), showed an important ability of such plants in promoting functional recovery of NK cells, especially regarding regularization of the secretion of interferon gamma.
The studies are still preliminary and need, of course, to be confirmed and extended, but the developments in the fight against cancer, or in the understanding of autoimmune and immune-mediated diseases that may arise, could turn out to be really important.
In fact, the immune system normally does not react against itself, or – rather – against the organism’s own components (cells, tissues and organs), and therefore will not activate itself towards what is recognized as a normal constituent. When this phenomenon occurs, autoimmune diseases develop. Alterations of the Natural Killer cells may determine the ineffective control of cancer or the development of autoimmune and immune-mediated diseases.
Forza10 Founder and Head of SANYpet’s Research and Development Department Veterinary surgeon and international expert in food-borne diseases