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inflammation

inflammation, reaction of the body to injury or to infectious, allergic, or chemical irritation. The symptoms are redness, swelling, heat, and pain resulting from dilation of the blood vessels in the affected part with loss of plasma and leucocytes (white blood cells) into the tissues. White blood cells communicate with each other via cytokines, which are polypeptides released by cells of the immune system that regulate other cells. They are a broad class of soluble compounds that signal one cell type to another, particularly in response to foreign substances. Granulomas are most common in infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, and schistosomiasis, in which the body's defenses, unable to destroy the offending organisms, try to enclose them in a mass of inflammatory cells. Certain types of inflammation result in pus formation, as in an abscess. The leukocytes destroy harmful microorganisms and dead cells, preventing the spread of the irritation and permitting the injured tissue to repair itself.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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