A splenocyte is a cell produced in the spleen. The spleen makes a number of white blood cells that play an important role in immune function. Some of them remain within the spleen while others may circulate through the body. Disorders of the spleen can cause a drop in a patient's white blood cell count, in addition to an increased susceptibility to disease because the patient's immune system does not work as well.
In the developing fetus, the spleen makes white and red blood cells. The bone marrow will take over for the task of producing both types of cells after birth, but the spleen retains the ability to make lymphocytes, macrophages, and certain other kinds of cells. Each type of splenocyte can assist the spleen with its functions and promote immune health. While it is possible to live without a spleen, patients who have undergone a splenectomy may be at increased risk of medical problems later in life.
The spleen, like the liver and kidneys, acts as a filter. When blood passes through the spleen, it recycles old red blood cells that are nearing the end of their lifespan. The spleen can scavenge iron and other useful materials for reuse. Splenocytes can also work to identify foreign antibodies and rogue cells in the blood, and will destroy them. The splenocyte is one of the body's lines of defense against infection.
In the event of a systemic infection, white blood cell production will go up to meet the need. Patients with chronic infection and inflammation can develop splenomegaly, where the spleen is enlarged. They may also have an unusual splenocyte count, either high or low, because of problems with the spleen. The decreased function of the organ can also mean that the patient is more prone to secondary infections and other health issues because the spleen is no longer able to filter the blood.
Blood testing can provide information about the cells in circulation, and a doctor can also take a biopsy directly from the spleen to learn more about splenocyte production and the current population of spleen cells. A doctor may request such testing in a patient who shows signs of impairment, like a palpable enlargement in the neighborhood of the spleen. In the event abnormalities are identified, the doctor can determine the cause and provide treatment recommendations. Patients sometimes find it helpful to get a second opinion to learn more about their options.