How do white blood cells work?

Written by collin fitzsimmons
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How do white blood cells work?
(Photo by Bruce Wetzer, Harry Schaefer.

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White Blood Cells: Immune System Attack Dogs

White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are cells that float freely in the blood and fight against infectious disease and foreign materials in the body. There are five different types of white blood cells; however, all of them are responsible for immune responses to disease, and all are produced from hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. They are found throughout the body, especially in the blood and lymph system.

Phagocytosis: Cells Eating Stuff

White blood cells come in many different forms, but they all have in common a function of protecting the body from foreign entities and from disease. Neutrophils, one of the body's main defences against bacteria, specialise in phagocytosis, where the cell closes its membrane around a particle or other entity in the amniotic fluid. Other white blood cells, like granulocytes, travel around by ameboid movement and surround and destroy bacteria. White blood cells are aided in the hunt for foreign particles and harmful bacteria by platelets, which attach to intruders to alert white blood cells of their presence. This phagocytosis is one of the main functions of white blood cells, eating up bacteria and killing them with digestive enzymes, which is key to keeping out disease and fighting foreign bodies.


There are many types of white blood cells, all part of the immune system and all seeking to protect against disease and foreign invasion. Eosinophils kill parasites. Basophils function in allergic reactions, releasing histamine and heparin, aiding the function of other white blood cells in the area. Macrophages also phagocytise bacteria and destroy old, damaged or dead cells in the body. White blood cells like monocytes are attracted to injury by migrating towards higher concentrations of chemicals released by the immune system--this is called chemotaxis. These many different types of white blood cells all work together to protect the body from infection, as part of the various and highly unique defences of the immune system.

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