Which organ filters blood and helps fight infections?

Your spleen’s main function is to act as a filter for your blood. It recognizes and removes old, malformed, or damaged red blood cells. When blood flows into your spleen, your spleen performs “quality control”; your red blood cells must pass through a maze of narrow passages. Healthy blood cells simply pass through the spleen and continue to circulate throughout your bloodstream. Blood cells that can’t pass the test will be broken down in your spleen by macrophages. Macrophages are large white blood cells that specialize in destroying these unhealthy red blood cells.

Your spleen also plays an important part in your immune system, which helps your body fight infection. Just as it detects faulty red blood cells, your spleen can pick out any unwelcome micro-organisms (like bacteria or viruses) in your blood.

When one of these invaders is detected in your bloodstream, your spleen, along with your lymph nodes, jumps to action and creates an army of defender cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies, special proteins that weaken or kill bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that cause infection. Antibodies and white blood cells also stop infections from spreading through the body by trapping germs and destroying them.


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