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Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system

consists of organs, ducts, and
nodes. It transports a watery clear
fluid called lymph. This fluid
distributes immune cells and other
factors throughout the body. It also
interacts with the blood circulatory
system to drain fluid from cells and
tissues. The lymphatic system
contains immune cells called
lymphocytes, which protect the
body against antigens (viruses,
bacteria, etc.) that invade the
body. See more on lymphocytes

Main Functions of Lymphatic


To collect and return

interstitial fluid, including plasma
protein to the blood,
and thus help maintain fluid
To defend the body against
disease by producing lymphocytes,
To absorb lipids from the intestine and transport them to the blood.

Lymph organs include the bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus. Precursor
cells in the bone marrow produce lymphocytes. B-lymphocytes (B-cells) mature in the
bone marrow. T-lymphocytes (T-cells) mature in the thymus gland.
Lymph Nodes - A lymph node is an organized collection of lymphoid tissue, through
which the lymph passes on its way to returning to the blood. Lymph nodes are located at
intervals along the lymphatic system. Several afferent lymph vessels bring in lymph,
which percolates through the substance of the lymph node, and is drained out by an
efferent lymph vessel.

The Cardiovascular System

The heart and circulatory system make up the

cardiovascular system. The heart works as a pump
that pushes blood to the organs, tissues, and cells of
the body. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to every
cell and removes the carbon dioxide and waste
products made by those cells. Blood is carried from the
heart to the rest of the body through a complex
network of arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. Blood is
returned to the heart through venules and veins.

The one-way circulatory system carries blood

to all parts of the body. This process of blood flow
within the body is called circulation. Arteries carry
oxygen-rich blood away from the heart, and veins carry
oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. In pulmonary
circulation, though, the roles are switched. It is the pulmonary artery that brings oxygen-
poor blood into the lungs and the pulmonary vein that brings oxygen-rich blood back to
the heart. (Rod R. Seeley et. al, Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology 5 th edition,
McGraw-Hill Int. NY 10020 2005)

Twenty major arteries make a path through the tissues, where they branch into
smaller vessels called arterioles. Arterioles further branch into capillaries, the true
deliverers of oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Most capillaries are thinner than a hair. In
fact, many are so tiny, only one blood cell can move through them at a time. Once the
capillaries deliver oxygen and nutrients and pick up carbon dioxide and other waste, they
move the blood back through wider vessels called venules. Venules eventually join to
form veins, which deliver the blood back to the heart to pick up oxygen. Vasoconstriction
or the spasm of smooth muscles around the blood vessels causes and decrease in
blood flow but an increase in pressure. In vasodilation, the lumen of the blood vessel
increase in diameter thereby allowing increase in blood flow. There is no tension on the
walls of the vessels therefore, there is lower pressure. (Rod R. Seeley et. al, Essentials
of Anatomy and Physiology 5th edition, McGraw-Hill Int. NY 10020 2005)

Various external factors also cause changes in blood pressure and pulse rate. An
elevation or decline may be detrimental to health. Changes may also be caused or
aggravated by other disease conditions existing in other parts of the body.

The blood is part of the circulatory system. Whole blood contains three types of
blood cells, including: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

These three types of blood cells are mostly manufactured in the bone marrow of
the vertebrae, ribs, pelvis, skull, and sternum. These cells travel through the circulatory
system suspended in a yellowish fluid called plasma. Plasma is 90% water and contains
nutrients, proteins, hormones, and waste products. Whole blood is a mixture of blood
cells and plasma.

Red blood cells (also called erythrocytes) are shaped like slightly indented,
flattened disks. Red blood cells contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin. Blood
gets its bright red color when hemoglobin in red blood cells picks up oxygen in the lungs.
As the blood travels through the body, the hemoglobin releases oxygen to the tissues.
The body contains more red blood cells than any other type of cell, and each red blood
cell has a life span of about 4 months. Each day, the body produces new red blood cells
to replace those that die or are lost from the body.

White blood cells (also called leukocytes) are a key part of the body's system for
defending itself against infection. They can move in and out of the bloodstream to reach
affected tissues. The blood contains far fewer white blood cells than red cells, although
the body can increase production of white blood cells to fight infection. There are several
types of white blood cells, and their life spans vary from a few days to months. New cells
are constantly being formed in the bone marrow.

Several different parts of blood are involved in fighting infection. White blood cells
called granulocytes and lymphocytes travel along the walls of blood vessels. They fight
bacteria and viruses and may also attempt to destroy cells that have become infected or
have changed into cancer cells. (Rod R. Seeley et. al, Essentials of Anatomy and
Physiology 5th edition, McGraw-Hill Int. NY 10020 2005)

Certain types of white blood cells produce antibodies, special proteins that
recognize foreign materials and help the body destroy or neutralize them. When a
person has an infection, his or her white cell count often is higher than when he or she is
well because more white blood cells are being produced or are entering the bloodstream
to battle the infection. After the body has been challenged by some infections,
lymphocytes remember how to make the specific antibodies that will quickly attack the
same germ if it enters the body again.

Platelets (also called thrombocytes) are tiny oval-shaped cells made in the bone
marrow. They help in the clotting process. When a blood vessel breaks, platelets gather
in the area and help seal off the leak. Platelets survive only about 9 days in the
bloodstream and are constantly being replaced by new cells.

Blood also contains important proteins called clotting factors, which are critical to
the clotting process. Although platelets alone can plug small blood vessel leaks and
temporarily stop or slow bleeding, the action of clotting factors is needed to produce a
strong, stable clot.

Platelets and clotting factors work together to form solid lumps to seal leaks,
wounds, cuts, and scratches and to prevent bleeding inside and on the surfaces of our
bodies. The process of clotting is like a puzzle with interlocking parts. When the last part
is in place, the clot is formed.

When large blood vessels are cut the body may not be able to repair itself
through clotting alone. In these cases, dressings or stitches are used to help control

In addition to the cells and clotting factors, blood contains other important
substances, such as nutrients from the food that has been processed by the digestive
system. Blood also carries hormones released by the endocrine glands and carries them
to the body parts that need them. (Rod R. Seeley et. al, Essentials of Anatomy and
Physiology 5th edition, McGraw-Hill Int. NY 10020 2005)
Blood is essential for good health because the body depends on a steady supply
of fuel and oxygen to reach its billions of cells. Even the heart couldn't survive without
blood flowing through the vessels that bring nourishment to its muscular walls. Blood
also carries carbon dioxide and other waste materials to the lungs, kidneys, and
digestive system, from where they are removed from the body. (Rod R. Seeley et. al,
Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology 5th edition, McGraw-Hill Int. NY 10020 2005)


An immune system is a collection of biological

processes within an organism that protects against
disease by identifying and killing pathogens and
tumour cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from
viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish
them from the organism's own healthy cells and
tissues in order to function properly. Detection is
complicated as pathogens can evolve rapidly;
producing adaptations that avoid the immune system
and allow the pathogens to successfully infect their hosts.

To survive this challenge, multiple mechanisms evolved

that recognize and neutralize pathogens. Even simple
unicellular organisms such as bacteria possess enzyme
systems that protect against viral infections. Other basic
immune mechanisms evolved in ancient eukaryotes and
remain in their modern descendants, such as plants, fish,
reptiles, and insects. These mechanisms include
antimicrobial peptides called defensins, phagocytosis,
and the complement system. Vertebrates such as
humans have even more sophisticated defense
mechanisms. The immune systems of vertebrates consist of many types of proteins,
cells, organs, and tissues, which interact in an elaborate and dynamic network. As part
of this more complex immune response, the human immune system adapts over time to
recognise specific pathogens more efficiently. This adaptation process is referred to as
"adaptive immunity" or "acquired immunity" and creates immunological memory.
Immunological memory created from a primary
response to a specific pathogen, provides an
enhanced response to secondary encounters with
that same, specific pathogen. This process of
acquired immunity is the basis of vaccination.

Disorders in the immune system can result in

disease. Immunodeficiency diseases occur when
the immune system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening
infections. Immunodeficiency can either be the result of a genetic disease, such as
severe combined immunodeficiency, or be produced by pharmaceuticals or an infection,
such as the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) that is caused by the
retrovirus HIV. In contrast, autoimmune diseases result from a hyperactive immune
system attacking normal tissues as if they were foreign organisms. Common
autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus type 1 and lupus
erythematosus. Immunology covers the study of all aspects of the immune system which
has significant relevance to human health and diseases. Further investigation in this field
is expected to play a serious role in promotion of health and treatment of diseases.