The inflammatory process is usually tightly regulated, involving both signals that initiate and maintain inflammation and signals that shut the process down. An imbalance between the two signals leaves inflammation unchecked, resulting in cellular and tissue damage. Macrophages are a major component of the mononuclear phagocyte system that consists of closely related cells of bone marrow origin, including blood monocytes, and tissue macrophages. From the blood, monocytes migrate into various tissues and transform macrophages. In inflammation, macrophages have three major function; antigen presentation, phagocytosis, and immunomodulation through production of various cytokines and growth factors. Macrophages play a critical role in the initiation, maintenance, and resolution of inflammation. They are activated and deactivated in the inflammatory process. Activation signals include cytokines (interferon γ, granulocyte-monocyte colony stimulating factor, and tumor necrosis factor α), bacterial lipopolysaccharide, extracellular matrix proteins, and other chemical mediators. Inhibition of inflammation by removal or deactivation of mediators and inflammatory effector cells permits the host to repair damages tissues. Activated macrophages are deactivated by anti-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin 10 and transforming growth factor ß) and cytokine antagonists that are mainly produced by macrophages. Macrophages participate in the autoregulatory loop in the inflammatory process. Because macrophages produce a wide range of biologically active molecules participated in both beneficial and detrimental outcomes in inflammation, therapeutic interventions targeted macrophages and their products may open new avenues for controlling inflammatory diseases.
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