Natural killer cells: their roles in defenses against disease

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Science  02 Oct 1981:
Vol. 214, Issue 4516, pp. 24-30
DOI: 10.1126/science.7025208


Natural killer cells are a recently discovered subpopulation of lymphoid cells that are present in most normal individuals of a range of mammalian and avian species. Natural killer cells have spontaneous cytolytic activity against a variety of tumor cells and some normal cells, and their reactivity can be rapidly augmented by interferon. They have characteristics distinct from other types of lymphoid cells and are closely associated with large granular lymphocytes, which comprise about 5 percent of blood or splenic leukocytes. There is increasing evidence that natural killer cells, with the ability to mediate natural resistance against tumors in vivo, certain virus and other microbial diseases, and bone marrow transplants, may play an important role in immune surveillance.

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