What are microphages?

Things You Must Know about Microphages

Different from but related to macrophages, microphages are small phagocytes or activated neutrophils that can do phagocytosis.  For the uninformed, phagocytosis is the process of engulfing and digesting microorganisms and cellular debris that are deemed unnecessary or harmful to the body. Microphages and macrophages serve the same functions but are different in size.

It’s “Micro” vs. “Macro,” Small vs. Big

Microphages are just as important to the body as macrophages. They serve a vital role in the immune system. They get rid of microorganisms and unwanted debris in the cells that are likely to be harmful. Essentially, they are small phagocytes existing in the blood and lymph. They then move to tissues during an inflammatory immune response to round up unwanted microorganisms and foreign materials. Similar to macrophages, they ingest the things they ingest to be processed through an alimentary canal, a particularly minute gastrointestinal tract that can digest various kinds of materials.

Aside from the size, one noteworthy difference of microphages from macrophages is the way they perform phagocytosis. Instead of consuming something singly as how macrophages do, they can ingest in bulk. They don’t need to manipulate cellular debris or microorganisms individually to eat them.

The term microphages now more commonly refer to neutrophils or neutrocytes. There are some references, however, that equate the word with the broader terms “granulocytes” (which includes neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils) or polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Regardless, microphages still refer to phagocytes that ingest and destroy microorganisms, cellular debris, and foreign materials that are not supposed to exist in the body.

How to Ensure Good Levels of Microphages

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These phagocytes are created from precursor cells in the bone marrow. They are notably short-lived. Once created, they enter the bloodstream and go through the circulatory system for a few hours before they leave the circulation and naturally die. To have good levels of microphages means to have a healthy immune system. This means eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, maintaining a healthy weight, having a regular exercise routine, and taking supplements when needed. Also, it’s important to ensure bone marrow health by consuming the right amounts of protein, iron, folic acid, and vitamin B6.

References:

  1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/microphage
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/immune-system

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