Immune function

The small intestine and its mesentery contain a very high proportion of the body's lymphocytes and also a very large number of macrophages. Normal function of these cells is essential for the defense mechanisms against intraluminal bacteria and bacterial products as well as other non-self agents that could be introduced by the alimentary route. The intestinal T lymphocytes are important antibody producers, while the macrophages are essential for initiating and regulating defense reactions in different pathological conditions through their secretion of cytokines, mainly tumor necrosis factor and interleukins such as IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, etc. Activation of macrophages to secrete cytokines may initiate all aspects of an inflammatory response reaction. Intestinal ischemia may, on the one hand, activate this high number of intestinal macrophages, but on the other hand hypoxia is likely to impair the immune cell function of the gut. However, the detailed mechanisms of activation, the different chain reactions involved, and how the control of the immune function is exerted are not yet fully understood for normal function. Similarly, the influence of ischemia on the normal immune repsonse is also unknown.

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