31 July 2009

Spleen Not Useless

One of your body's less essential internal organs is your spleen. You can live without one, but it does have a purpose.

[It] serves as a holding tank for ready-to-go immune agents called monocytes. . . the spleen is their main dispatcher. . . . It recycles iron from old red blood cells, houses fresh blood cells, synthesizes antibodies and acts as a chamber in which pathogens are killed. . . .

In 1977, scientists reported that servicemen who had undergone spleen removal during World War II had higher rates of death due to diseases in general — and from heart disease and pneumonia specifically — during the 28 years following the war, compared with similar men who kept their spleens. . . .

Spleen removal can . . . cause diminished response to some vaccines and increased susceptibility to infections.

Spleen malfunction may be one factor in autoimmune diseases.

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