PerspectiveImmunology

Dispensable But Not Irrelevant

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Science  31 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5940, pp. 549-550
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178329

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Summary

In the left upper quadrant of the abdomen lies the spleen, functioning in two major capacities—filtering and storing blood cells, and acting as an immune tissue, where antibody synthesis occurs and certain pathogens are eliminated. Yet the spleen lacks the gravitas of neighboring organs because we can survive without it, albeit with some inconveniences. Its surgical removal causes modest increases in circulating white blood cells and platelets, diminished responsiveness to certain vaccines, and increased susceptibility to infection with certain bacteria and protozoa. But on page 612 in this issue, the organ gains some new respect, as Swirski et al. (1) show that in the mouse, the spleen serves as a reservoir for immune cells (monocytes) that function in repairing the heart after myocardial infarction.