General Studies  Modern India

  • Monocytes are the largest cells of the blood (averaging 15–18 μm in diameter), and they make up about 7 percent of the leukocytes. The nucleus is relatively big and tends to be indented or folded rather than multilobed.
  • The cytoplasm contains large numbers of fine granules, which often appear to be more numerous near the cell membrane. Monocytes are actively motile and phagocytic.
  • They are capable of ingesting infectious agents as well as red cells and other large particles, but they cannot replace the function of the neutrophils in the removal and destruction of bacteria. Monocytes usually enter areas of inflamed tissue later than the granulocytes. Often they are found at sites of chronic infections.
  • In the bone marrow, granulocytes and monocytes arise from a common precursor under the influence of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor.
  • Monocytes leave the bone marrow and circulate in the blood. After a period of hours, the monocytes enter the tissues, where they develop into macrophages, the tissue phagocytes that constitute the reticuloendothelial system (or macrophage system).
  • Macrophages occur in almost all tissues of the body. Those in the liver are called Kupffer cells, those in the skin Langerhans cells. Apart from their role as scavengers, macrophages play a key role in immunity by ingesting antigens and processing them so that they can be recognized as foreign substances by lymphocytes.
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