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Basophils: Definition & Function

Basophils: Definition & Function
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Gain an understanding of basophils and their function in our bodies. Learn what can happen when basophils are too sensitive and how that can be corrected. Take a short quiz to test how well you understand basophils.

Basophils Defined

White blood cells are like the bouncers of our bodies; they look for potentially harmful, invading parties and try to give them the boot. Basophils are a particular type of bouncer who belong to the group of white blood cells known as the granulocytes. The granulocytes get their name because they appear to have granules on their surface when viewed under the microscope. The granules on the surface of the basophils take on a purplish black color when they are stained.

Basophils are granulocytic white blood cells that are active in the inflammatory response. They are mostly found in the skin and mucosa tissues, which are the tissues lining the openings in the body. They represent about 1% of all white blood cells in the body.

Function of Basophils

Most people are all too familiar with the function of their basophils. Let's see if you're one of them. Ever used a new detergent, soap, or deodorant and experienced hives, rash, or uncontrollable itching?

Or maybe you ate something for the first time and had a similar reaction? Or possibly you were stung by a bee and had your throat close up? Even if you haven't experienced any of this, you probably know someone who has or have heard of it happening. This is what we commonly call an 'allergic reaction'. Allergic reactions are caused by oversensitive basophils.

Basophils have the function of releasing a chemical known as a histamine in order to start the process of getting rid of something foreign in the body. This inflammatory response is one of the earliest indicators that something is invading the body.

The inflammatory response includes a few different events. The first thing that happens is that blood vessels dilate. This increases the blood flow to the area where histamine has been released. The blood vessels also become leaky, which gives the appearance of swelling and causes the blood pressure to drop.

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