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T-Cells or T-Lymphocytes: Types, Production and Role


What are T-cells?

T-cells, also known as T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell and one of the main components of the adaptive immune system. T-cells play an important role in hosting an immune response against pathogens and work like soldiers who search out and destroy the targeted invaders. The immature T-cells migrate to thymus gland in the neck.

Here, they get mature and differentiate into various types of mature T-cells and become active in the immune system in response to a hormone called thymosin and other factors. The T-cells that are potentially activated against the body’s own tissues are normally killed or changed during this maturational process.

Your body is made up of billions of cells, and each one of those cells has a purpose and an important job to do. One example of this are your T cells, which help to fight off any viruses or bacteria that try to invade your body and make you sick.

In this article, we’ll look at some fascinating facts about these special little soldiers of the immune system, as well as some tips on how you can boost your own immune system through diet and exercise.

How do T-cells work?

It’s your immune system that keeps you safe from germs. And its white blood cells, particularly a special group called T cells, which are responsible for destroying invaders and keeping you healthy. But what exactly is a T cell and how does it work to keep us well?

Our bodies have a network of organs and tissues designed to filter out any germs or other harmful substances. And it’s white blood cells, like lymphocytes, which protect us from these invaders.

When a virus or bacteria enters your body, special proteins on their surface signal that they’re foreign bodies and should be attacked. The signal is picked up by T cells which then hunt down and destroy any invaders they find. So while it’s your white blood cells which get all of the attention, it’s really all thanks to your T cell helpers that you stay healthy.

Production of T-cells:

T-cell originate from haematopoietic stem cells (HSC) which are produced in the bone marrow. These haematopoietic stem cells now split into two progenitor groups, called myeloid and lymphoid progenitor cells, the latter of which then differentiate into T and B cells.

These T cells then migrate via blood to the thymus gland, in the anterior mediastinum, to undergo the process of maturation. Now, these cells enter the cortex and proliferate, mature and pass onto the medulla of the thymus. From the medulla, mature T cells enter the circulation. Now, these mature T cells are capable of responding to antigens in the periphery.

Types of T-cells:

There are four main types of T cells, including:

  • CD4+ Helper Cells — These helper cells assist in the maturation of B cells into the plasma cells and memory B cells. The cells also help activate cytotoxic T cells and macrophages.
  • CD8+ Cytotoxic Cells — These cells cause lysis of virus-infected and tumor cells. Cells are also involved in transplant rejection. CD8+ cytotoxic cells recognize their targets by binding to antigen associated with MHC Class I molecules which are present on the surface of all nucleated cells.
  • Memory T Cells — They differentiate into effector cells (CD4+ and CD8+ cells) and memory T cells, once they come into contact with an antigen naive T cells. They are long-lived and can quickly expand to large numbers of effector T cells upon re-exposure to the antigen.
  • Natural Killer T Cells — These cells bridge the adaptive immune system with the innate immune system. Whilst most T cells function based on recognition of MHC (major histocompatibility complex) class molecules, natural killer T cells are able to recognize other antigen classes.

Once activated they are also able to perform the same functions as CD4+ and CD8+ cells. These cells are distinct from natural killer cells.

Why do you need them?

Our bodies have an amazing ability to keep us healthy and fight off invading illnesses. This is all thanks to our immune system, a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that seeks out infections and keeps us safe from harm. One of our most important soldiers in our immune system are a type of white blood cell called a T cell.

While they’re most famous for identifying and killing foreign bodies, there is much more to these tiny immune system heroes. These cells, also known as CD4 lymphocytes (which means cell that fights infection), make up about 25 percent of our entire blood supply. They serve a crucial role in protecting us from diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis.

Despite their small size, they play a vital role in our immune system and can be easily damaged by toxins, viruses and medications that assault our bodies. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your immune system — not only do you need your white blood cells to fight off infections, but they’re also crucial for fighting chronic illnesses.

While it’s easy to get excited about your immune system, there’s no denying that our little friends are sometimes mysterious. As much as we understand about how our immune system works, there is still so much we don’t know about these awesome cells. The big question remains: where do they come from? And why is it important to have them in our bodies?

While there’s no simple answer to these questions, scientists have gained a lot of knowledge about these amazing cells. To truly understand how T cells work, you need to first understand what CD4 stands for and why it matters.

The abbreviation CD4 refers to one of two proteins found on a cell surface called cluster of differentiation 4. These proteins tell our immune system’s white blood cells whether or not an infection is present, so they can begin fighting off disease immediately.

Like many things in our bodies, CD4 proteins have an important job to do: they identify foreign agents like viruses, bacteria and fungi that can cause illness. There are two major types of CD4 proteins: CD4-positive T cells and CD8-positive T cells. These different cell types can be thought of as gatekeepers for your immune system — they tell other white blood cells to go attack infections or stay put if there isn’t anything wrong.

Of course, CD4 proteins aren’t only present on T cells — they can be found on a variety of other white blood cells, including macrophages, monocytes and dendritic cells. All of these cells play important roles in our immune system, but none play as vital a role as our brave little CD4-positive friends.

Knowing your enemy: pathogens, parasites and cancer

The immune system is made up of many different types of cells and organs that work together to maintain health, as well as defend against disease. The main players include white blood cells (leukocytes), which attack foreign invaders; antibodies and receptors, which recognize pathogens; and lymph nodes, which help filter out pathogens. One of these main players –T-cells– have a special ability to adapt when an antigen tries to escape by mutating or changing shape.

T-cells constantly scan your body, identifying and eliminating any sign of foreign substances or unhealthy cells. When a virus, bacteria or tumor attacks, T-cells transform into different types to fight it: helper (CD4+) and killer (CD8+) T-cells.

There are three types of CD8+ killer T-cells: cytotoxic, which attack and destroy infected or cancerous cells; helper, which assist other immune system components; and suppressor, which stop other immune responses from happening. If you’re exposed to a virus or bacteria for a second time, it won’t elicit as strong an immune response because your body remembers what happened last time.

To combat these threats, your immune system comes up with a plan: it goes through billions of different possibilities in order to make educated guesses about what will happen next. Once your immune system makes its best guess, it stores that information in long-term memory so that if you’re exposed to similar invaders again, your body already knows how to respond.

How can I support my own immune system?

The importance of getting enough sleep is apparent in our daily lives — we feel more energized and alert when we get enough rest. It’s no different for your immune system. When you’re sleep-deprived, your white blood cells become exhausted and less able to fight off infections.

A healthy diet, exercise and adequate rest will give your immune system a boost so it can keep fighting even when you need it most!

When you get enough sleep, your immune system gets to rest and repair itself. It’s more able to attack foreign invaders and fight off infections.

How much sleep do you need for your immune system to function properly?

That depends on each person’s health needs and daily schedule, but in general most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Sleep experts recommend that teenagers get at least nine hours of sleep per night to support their growing bodies and brains.

Exercise boosts your immune system in two ways. First, it helps you to relax and de-stress by releasing feel-good hormones that can put your mind and body at ease. Second, exercise makes your body stronger so it’s better equipped to ward off potential illnesses and infections.


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