What exactly is a natural killer cell?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Not dead yet!, Jan 8, 2018.

  1. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    I asked my doctor what an NK cells is, with respect to the CBC we had just done. I believe he was puzzled. I know bs when I hear it. So where is it on the CBC?

    Qwest has this to say about a specific test:

    Article: Natural killer cells (NK cells) are a subset of non-B, non-T peripheral blood lymphocytes that appear to play a crucial role in the human innate immune response. The function of NK cells is important for the clearance of tumor cells, for the removal of immunoglobulin-bound antigens, and for the control of viral infections. NK function has been reported to be decreased in certain individuals, including those with primary immunodeficiencies, those with late-stage human immunodeficiency virus infections, and pregnant women.Type your article here

    Another site has this to say:

    Article: This test finds and counts 3 types of white blood cells in your blood.

    Your body makes several types of white blood cells to fight off disease or illness. Lymphocytes are one type of white blood cell. They help your immune system by making antibodies and other substances that battle cancer and infections and by killing cells that are infected or that are foreign to your body.

    This test, called "lymphocyte profiling," looks at 3 types of lymphocytes to see how well your immune system is working:

    B lymphocytes, or B cells, make antibodies that help your body fight infections.

    T lymphocytes, or T cells, attack foreign cells, cancer cells, and cells infected with a virus. T cells start growing in bone marrow and then travel to the thymus gland to mature.

    Natural killer cells, or NK cells, contain substances that can kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus.

    So I gather that it would be under "lymphocytes" in general, but not under the B or T cells. However, I don't see much of that in an actual CBC report. I also don't see any examples online that have a dummy test printout, and indications of which of those numbers are B or T cells, or NK cells.

    I've been trying to hunt down solid info (that's practical, and easily related to a medical test everyone gets like the "Complete Blood Count") on NK cells and not finding much yet.
  2. Remy

    Remy Administrator

    See if this helps: http://www.publichealthalert.org/ev...-the-cd-57-test-but-were-too-sick-to-ask.html
    IrisRV and Not dead yet! like this.
  3. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    Bingo that's what I was looking for, thank you. So the CBC doesn't seem to test for it other than some general lymphocyte number. Gotcha.

    Would I be better off asking for a hematologist to look at that? I do have one from several years ago and I can ask if she can give a recommendation for who to see where I live now. It would also be good to ask if there are new genetic tests based on the Neanderthal data for the blood clotting issue. I'm sure that would be a hematologist's area.

    How do people with CFS get a CD56 (or CD57) level? It isn't a routine test. Is it expensive? I'm good for a couple hundred for a test like that. Seems like we have all these tests (CBC, bp, lipds, liver enzyme levels...) that are basically more blinding than helpful.
  4. Remy

    Remy Administrator

    The test is typically covered by insurance.

    You can order it in the US through a lab service without a doctor if you don’t have insurance. https://www.truehealthlabs.com/CD57-Natural-Killer-Cell-Test-Panel-Lyme-Disease-p/lc_505026.htm, or IgeneX (with an rx), https://www.igenex.com/testing/diagnostic-tests-for-cd-57-nk-cell-count/

    Check around though as the prices vary a lot between those online lab service companies. I just posted the first one I saw.

    I don’t know that I would spend any money to have it tested though. It’s typically low in our population and knowing one is low doesn’t really change the treatment plan. Mine, for example, has oddly never been low, yet I am still doing all the same things as everyone else to get better. :)

    I’m super interested in this machine learning algorithm developed by Christopher Kelly and Bryan Walsh which works off general bloods like a CBC and can predict things from more expensive tests quite accurately and cheaply. It won’t tell you about NK cells but it might be interesting to you anyway. https://bloodcalculator.com/
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  5. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    Thanks :) I think it would tell me whether or not I need to upgrade from whey protein to the more expensive colostrum. I have a local source, but it's $50/16 oz or thereabout. Seems overpriced since it's basically milk that the dairy industry throws away. OK, it's organic and such... but still.
    Remy likes this.
  6. IrisRV

    IrisRV Well-Known Member

    @Not dead yet!, as I understand it, it is NK cell function (aka activity), not number, that is more commonly low in ME, so if you're going to do a NK cell test, you probably want to ask for the function test. If you'd like to know more, look up research by Brenu or Fletcher/Klimas about NK cells. IIRC, their research groups have done the most research on NK cell dysfunction in ME/CFS.

    The NK cell function test used to be hard to get because only specialty labs did it, but now you can get it through Quest.

    FWIW, I just talked to my specialist today who said my function is still a bit low. She is sending me the name of an OTC product they're having some luck with. Since the clinicians and researchers at the Institute of Neuro Immune Medicine have been studying NK cell function and trying to find ways to help patients with low NK cell function for 15+ years, I'm happy to try what they suggest.

    If you're interested, let me know and I'll share the name of the product with you when I get it.

    A point for consideration for all ME patients considering trying to treat low NK cell function --- While many of us have low NK cell function, not all of us do. It might not be wise to try OTC products to improve NK cell function if you don't know if yours is low, normal, or high. IMO, it is ideal to have the test. If that is not possible, then I suggest considering the supposed action of the product. Is it a modulator, which should normalize function however it's abnormal, or a booster which you wouldn't want to take if your NK cell function is already high.
    Remy, Not dead yet! and nibs like this.
  7. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    Yes I'd be interested. A lot of the time, my medical conversations are like this:

    Me: I tried supplement X because it's supposed to do A. And it worked apparently. Can we test for the symptoms of the cause of A?

    Dr.: Hmm, I'd have to diagnose something first...

    So occasionally it feels backwards. Sometimes there is no diagnosis that can be made that makes a test relevant. I try to make it easy by finding something that has the test in it and seeing if I fit the diagnosis for it. Then at least my doctor can say he wants to rule out some illness. However, insurers lately have been clamping down on "rule out" as a reason to run a test. Which I think is just bogus. How is a doctor supposed to diagnose something without testing? And if he can't rule stuff out, then how can that not lead to a proliferation of diagnoses ... well you see the problem.

    I haven't seen anything official that says NK cells are deficient or badly functioning in the medical code definitions so I may end up paying for such a test out of pocket.

    Anyway, all this ends up with me trying supplements I may not need and keeping them if I feel a difference.

    I'd rather live in a rational society that actually tests for imbalances, but I don't make the rules. Even the demand that something must be an illness, not an imbalance, before it is treated is, imo, bad medicine. So there's only so much we can do. If I can afford it, I'm happy to try something new and I'm usually only out about $30 for such an experiment.
    IrisRV likes this.
  8. IrisRV

    IrisRV Well-Known Member

    This is the product I'm going to try. I do not expect it to have a sudden dramatic effect. In my experience, treatments that affect my immune system have a slow, steady effect. After a few months, I notice I've had less infections, or fewer bad days, or a general overall improvement. In this case, I will have another NK cell function test in 6-8 months. If my function has improved, I'll keep taking this product. If not, I'll drop it. Unless I've been able to take up running and mountain climbing in which case I wouldn't care what the test says. ;)
    Not dead yet! likes this.
  9. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    Oh well, it contains wheat, the maltodextrin tipped me off, and then I saw they clearly label it as containing wheat. I'm getting more sensitive to gluten as I remove more and more sources from my life. Yesterday I had a mild reaction to oatmeal that's normally ok. So either the nuts or dried cranberries I added have wheat somewhere or I'm reacting to avenin because it's a GF oatmeal. Sigh.

    I appreciate the suggestion though. It might've helped. I'll have to see if anyone makes it without wheat since it's a rice bran source. There might be some hope.
    IrisRV likes this.
  10. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    Doing some more research on that... it looks like a cheaper alternative to MGN3 (Biobran): http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/abo...e-therapies/individual-therapies/biobran-mgn3

    FYI I ignore statements like "has not been shown to do x" because it's just CYA for the website. Noise, not signal.

    It might be that wheat is simply cheaper than shiitake mushroom, so they developed their own in house method for modifying the bran. I guess I can look for "real" MGN3. But I thought you should know that if that supplement doesn't work, it might be a knockoff. I've never seen Life Extension behave in a cheap manner like that before, though. So maybe they believe that malting has a better effect. If so, they should consider koji or millet malting.

    The prices of the MGN3 supplements do seem outrageous. I know shiitake mushrooms are expensive, but really... $1.15 - $3.00 per pill is a bit much. So that might be why they're seeking another manufacturing method.

    Apparently they are seeking to produce arabinoxylan from the shiitake or wheat processing: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/arabinoxylan

    That article might provide some ideas for how it might be produced without wheat.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
    IrisRV likes this.
  11. Not dead yet!

    Not dead yet! Well-Known Member

    Here's something very interesting: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19888729

    Apparently the gooey portion of flax seeds (mucilage) is 3/4 arabinoxylan. The way you would extract it is simply to put some in hot water with a touch of salt and let a gel form (scientific language " thermic hydrolysis in mild acid conditions" - known at home as boiling and then cooling). I use whole seeds for that purpose, because it's a great dough conditioner in baking. Some people use it instead of eggs. Not sure what effect baking it has. It could deactivate the effect someone is going for by using a supplement. But industrial thermic hydrolysis is done at much higher temps than just boiling so I'd guess heat doesn't deactivate it.

    I haven't been systematic about flax gel and it's fallen off my weekly food list. It might be worth looking at again. Or I have just fallen down another research rabbit hole and somewhere I missed a connection that invalidates what I said. LOL it can happen. :wacky:

    The most vulnerable part of my assumptions is probably that Life Extension is trying to give you a form of arabinoxylan with their proprietary process. I can't speak for sure on that. It just seems likely.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
    IrisRV likes this.
  12. Farmgirl

    Farmgirl Well-Known Member

    Don't know much about this test except it is not part of the CBC. It must be ordered separately. I had mine done and it was low. I also had low WBC, low Neutrophils and high Eosinophils. My LLMD did a ton of tests...27 vials were needed. He knew just which tests to do. Many came back abnormal. That was the first time any doctor did anything but the normal CBC and hormone testing. My treatment us also directed by the many tests and the results couple with my symptoms, which are still severe.
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