AGRANULOCYTOSIS: Agranulocytosis (meaning "without granulocytes") is a marked decrease in the number of granulocytes in the blood. Granulocytes are a type of white blood cell filled with microscopic granules that are little sacs containing enzymes that digest microorganisms. Granulocytes are part of the innate, somewhat non specific infection-fighting immune system. They do not respond exclusively to specific antigens, as do B-cells and T-cells.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?: This decrease in granulocytes results in a syndrome of frequent chronic bacterial infections of the skin, lungs, throat, etc. Even though "agranulocytosis" literally means no granulocytes, there may, in fact, be some granulocytes but too few of them, which is called granulocytopenia. Agranulocytosis can be genetic and inherited or it can be acquired as, for example, an aspect of leukemia.
WHAT TYPE OF CELLS ARE GRANULOCYTES? Neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils are all types of granulocytes. They are named by the staining features of their granules in the laboratory. They appear "gritty."
HOW ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CELLS DISTINGUISHED? Neutrophils have "neutral" subtle granules; Eosinophils have prominent granules that stain readily with the acid dye eosin; and Basophils have prominent granules that stain readily basic (non acidic) dyes. This classification dates back to a time when certain structures could be identified in cells by histochemistry, but the functions of these intracellular structures were still not yet fathomed. However, the classification of granulocytes into neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils is still widely used (and quite useful).
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