Selenium is involved in the biochemical aspects and regular functioning of many cells and tissues in the body. This essential element has been gaining importance owing to its role in the immune system in humans and animals.
Selenium is known to play many roles in the optimal functioning of the immune cells and the immune system as a whole.
Selenium and its Effects on the Immune SystemSelenium obtained from the diet has been considered to have a significant role in the immune responses although the exact mechanism of action is not known. The immune system or immunity has been categorized as innate or adaptive immunity based on its mode of formation. Selenium has been noted to have a significant influence on both types of immunity. B and T-lymphocytes are the major cells responsible for the immune functions. A deficiency of selenium was associated with decreased production and the spread of these lymphocytes across the body. An animal study reported that deficiency of selenium suppresses the spread of T-lymphocytes in response to the presence of harmful microorganisms.
Immune cells called macrophages generally release certain chemicals known as leukotriene B4 which signals the white blood cells (specifically neutrophils) to aid in the destruction of harmful microorganisms. A deficiency of selenium also affects the ability of the macrophages to release the leukotriene B4 thereby leading to a decrease in the accumulation of white blood cells in the infected areas of the body.
Effects on NeutrophilsNeutrophils are one of white blood cells responsible for engulfing and destroying harmful microorganisms. These cells are the first line of defense against bacteria. In case of viruses, the B and T-lymphocytes form the major defense, while it is assisted by neutrophils in the destruction process. Thereby, neutrophils form a vital part our immune system.
Neutrophils generally engulf the harmful microorganisms and destroy them with the help of superoxides produced within the neutrophils. The process is selenium-dependent and some studies have demonstrated that this process occurs in a better way in subjects consuming a selenium rich diet.