White Blood Cells and their Function: Your Immune Support Army

As you probably know, your blood has both red and white blood cells. Your white blood cells – also known as leukocytes – are a powerful ally in keeping you healthy. Here are ten interesting facts about these tireless fighters:

• White blood cells live a short life: only a few days to a few weeks.

• A drop of blood contains an average of 7,000 to 25.000 white blood cells at a time.

• They’re produced in bone marrow as generic leucocytes and can become different types of leukocytes later on.

• They act like independent single-cell organisms, able to capture invaders and wipe them out.

• There are several different types of cells. Some fight infection-causing invaders, along with outsiders like smoke and dust.  Others produce antibodies, special proteins that help destroy foreign materials and “remember” how to make them the next time they enter your body.

• Leukocytes known as T cells have a “split personality”: Some help control immune responses while others function as killer cells.

• Immune system soldiers crawl swiftly along the sides of blood vessels, moving like millipedes. Cells create tiny “legs” that attach and detach within seconds, allowing them to zip along while keeping a good grip on the vessels’ sides.

• White blood cells are able to identify proteins that indicate which cells are “you” and which are invaders. Special molecules tell them where to cross the blood vessel barrier so they can reach damaged tissue.

• In bone marrow, white blood cells outnumber red blood cells 2:1. But in the blood stream, there are about 600 red blood cells for every white blood cell.

• Your own leukocytes help maintain immune function but in donated blood they serve no purpose, according to the American Red Cross.