By Sirid Hellermann, PhD
NeuroScience, Inc. offers testing that assesses both natural killer cell count (5079), NK cell activity (3014), or both (5067). Now let’s say you run one of these tests on your patient and the results indicate abnormal NK cell count or activity – how can you use this information?
First, a few words about natural killer cells (arguably the coolest-sounding immune cells, and quite pretty as well!). NK cells basically function by distinguishing “self” (our healthy cells) from “non-self” (self-cells that are virally-infected or cancerous, or bacteria). NK cells (1) lyse (kill) “non-self” cells, as well as (2) produce cytokines (small protein messengers) that promote helper T cell (Th1) and cytotoxic T cell mediated immunity. Bottom line, NK cells are vital players in the immune response.
Here, I’ve summarized some of the underlying reasons why your patient might have non-normal NK cell counts or function. A bit of a laundry list, but I hope that in the context of your patient’s history and symptoms, it can help you can isolate the possible root causes and design appropriate therapeutic interventions (we’ll discuss what sorts of interventions may be able to boost NK cell activity in a future post).