Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells)
Definition - What does Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells) mean?
Natural Killer (NK) cells are an important part of the body's immune system that kill other cells, bacteria, and viruses. These cells can make up to 30% of the total cell population in a pregnant or non-pregnant uterus. These cells can undergo significant changes because of the variations of hormones during menstruation and fertilization. The exact role of NK cells in female fertility is not yet clear.
FertilitySmarts explains Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells)
Despite their compelling name, there is no evidence that these cells might harm the fetus or the placenta. In fact, some research suggests that these cells might actually help make the implantation and survival of the embryo successful. NK cells are abundantly present around the site of the implantation of the embryo. This has led the researchers to believe that these cells might release certain chemicals, called cytokines, which help in the development of arteries that would nourish the developing fetus.
There is some evidence that links NK cells with female infertility. In a study conducted at the King's College London, researchers found that the infertile females had a significantly higher amount of NK cells when compared to the fertile females. How this higher level of NK cells is linked to infertility is largely unknown. In addition, treatment options like steroids which focus on suppressing the activity of NK cells have shown to improve pregnancy outcomes.
More research is needed in this area to reach a definite conclusion.