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B Cells and T Cells: Immune System Explained



  Mar 28, 2024

Understanding B Cells and T Cells in the Immune System



B cells and T cells are essential components of the adaptive immune system, playing critical roles in protecting the body against infections, diseases, and even cancer. They are types of lymphocytes, a subset of white blood cells, specialized in recognizing and responding to specific antigens. Here’s a closer look at their functions, development, and importance in immunotherapy.

B Cells


 Function: B cells are primarily responsible for producing antibodies that neutralize pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Upon encountering an antigen, B cells can differentiate into plasma cells to produce antibodies specific to that antigen.

 Development: B cells originate and mature in the bone marrow. Their development allows them to create a vast repertoire of antibody specificity through the rearrangement of their antibody gene segments.

 Role in Immunity: Besides antibody production, B cells play a part in antigen presentation and the regulation of the immune response.

T Cells


 Function: T cells contribute to the immune defense by directly killing infected or cancerous cells and regulating the immune response. There are several types of T cells, including helper T cells that assist other white blood cells, cytotoxic T cells that kill infected or cancerous cells, and regulatory T cells that help maintain immune tolerance.

 Development: T cells originate from hematopoietic stem cells found in the bone marrow and fetal liver, maturing in the thymus where they undergo selection processes to ensure self-tolerance and functionality.

 Role in Immunity: T cells are crucial for cell-mediated immunity, which is the aspect of the immune response that does not involve antibodies but involves the activation of phagocytes, antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, and the release of various cytokines in response to an antigen.

Adaptive Immune System

Both B cells and T cells are central to the adaptive immune system, which is characterized by its ability to remember previous infections and respond more rapidly and effectively upon re-exposure to the same pathogens. This memory feature is the basis of how vaccines work, priming the immune system to recognize and combat specific pathogens without causing disease.

Immunotherapy and Cancer Treatment

T cells have become a focal point in the development of innovative cancer treatments, including immunotherapy. Immunotherapy aims to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer, either by boosting immune responses or by overcoming the mechanisms cancer cells use to evade immune detection.


 Checkpoint Inhibitors: These therapies target immune checkpoints, which are regulatory pathways in T cells that cancers exploit to suppress immune responses against them. By inhibiting these checkpoints, checkpoint inhibitors allow the immune system to better recognize and attack cancer cells.

 CAR T-cell Therapy: This treatment involves genetically engineering patients’ T cells to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. These receptors enable T cells to recognize and kill cancer cells more effectively.

Both B cells and T cells are indispensable for our health, playing complementary roles in our adaptive immune system. Their unique capabilities and interactions form the basis of complex immune responses that protect us from a wide range of diseases, including the potential to treat previously untreatable cancers through innovative therapies like immunotherapy.
 

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