How Fevers Fight

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Taylor-Jade Layne
Office Manager

Fevers are the body’s hot and sweaty responses to infections. They are by far the most dreadful part of being sick. Despite this, they might be more useful than we think. Using mice, Jian Feng Chen and his team have seen how fevers aid immune cells in their battle against sickness.
Fevers help T-cells (a type of white blood cell) flow through the blood in our blood vessels and defend against infectious invaders. These T-cells tend to make their way into the lymph nodes, which are tiny pod-shaped glands all around the body. These nodes stop infections from spreading and help with disease eradication. By injecting mice with an intestinal infection, Chen and his team found that fevers improve the efficiency of two very important proteins that aid T-cells’ entrance into lymph nodes, the first being alpha-integrin (which is responsible for cell to cell recognition) and Hsp90, a heat shock protein. When temperature increases due to a fever, the alpha-integrin protrudes and acts like a Velcro that sticks to the blood vessel walls next to lymph nodes. This is beneficial because blood gushes through vessels very quickly and pushes the cells traveling through it. Sticking to the walls helps the T-cells enter the lymph nodes much quicker so they can fight the infection faster.
This type of immune defence can be surmised to be an evolutionary trait that was beneficial to our species’ survival, and may even aid in the fight against cancer, as T-cells can be allocated to cancer cells quickly for disposal. We’ve still got a lot to learn, but fevers seem to be a lot better than a stuffy nose.

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