Answer by Diane Eager

It is commonly believed that white blood cells only exist to fight infectious diseases, but they do have other functions.

First of all, we need to note that the cells that are called “white blood cells” do not actually live their lives or carry out their functions in the blood.  These cells are just using the bloodstream as a means of transport from where they are made in the bone marrow to the body tissues where they actually carry out their functions, and these involve more than just fighting disease.

White blood cells are part of the body’s clean-up and maintenance function, and would be needed even in a perfect world.  There is always some wear and tear going on in the body tissues, but most of the time this is rapidly repaired without causing disease or loss of function.  The first part of any repair process is to break down and removed the damaged or worn out bits.  This is an important function of white blood cells.  When they do this they also release growth factors that encourage the rebuilding of the tissue by other cells.

Another function of white blood cells (and the immune system in general) is to keep the legions of bacteria and other microbes that live on our body surfaces in their proper place.  Most microbes are quite harmless.  In fact, many of them are useful.  (You have no doubt seen the advertisements for “good bacteria” diet supplements.)  However, these bacteria are only harmless if they stay in the right places, e.g. on the skin, in the digestive system.  If they cross the skin barrier or the internal lining of the digestive system they can cause a lot a trouble.  Even in a perfect world this would happen occasionally as the digestive tract lining is being constantly replaced, and skin is damaged by minor abrasions.  However, any microbes are usually cleaned up very quickly before they can cause disease by the white blood cells that live just below body surfaces.

Even normal body functions result is wear and tear, cells wear out, and our body has to be constantly repairing itself.  In this fallen world, the wear and tear processes eventually overtake the repair process.  Also repair processes eventually break down and cannot carry out their function.  This is what happens with the aging process, and eventually leads to our physical death.  However, in the original good world Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of life.  We don’t know how this worked, but it must have had a function in maintaining the body’s repair processes, so that they could keep the body functioning.  Think about this: If the repair process in your body could always keep up with wear and tear processes, would you die?  No, you could live forever, as long as your repair and maintenance processes were kept going, and these processes would involve white blood cells.  Therefore, white blood cells are part of God’s good design for our bodies, useful in the pre-fall world, but whose inbuilt functions can be put to use in the post-fall world.

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About The Contributor

Diane Eager