T cells, B cells and the range of the human body’s immune response — A simple decoder


That is also why lymphocytes (a class of white blood cells), especially the ones known as T-cells are the flavour of the season. They are probably the single most important component of the immune system; though given the perfectly synchronised working of the defence mechanism of the body, it may be a little unfair to designate any one as more important than the another.

T-cells play a plethora of roles in immunity — as killer cells that can attack an infected cell and kill it along with the infecting agent, and as suppressor cells that modulate the level of functioning of other lymphocytes. They also have a starring role in the production of antibodies, a function performed by the other variant of lymphocytes called the B cells.

Latest research in Nature shows that presence of T-cells from earlier encounters with coronaviruses could have an important role to play in the body’s immune response, and therefore, a better understanding of it is crucial for the development of a vaccine.

“The published data discussed here indicate that patients with severe COVID-19 can have either insufficient or excessive T cell responses. It is possible, therefore, that disease might occur in different patients at either end of this immune response spectrum, in one case from virus-mediated pathology and in the other case from T cell-driven immunopathology.

“However, it is unclear why some patients respond too little and some patients too much, and whether the strength of the T cell response in the peripheral blood reflects the T cell response intensity in the respiratory tract and other SARS-CoV-2-infected organs,” wrote the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. They called for more research on the topic.

The defence mechanisms that the body is born with is known an innate immunity. This includes something as simple as the ability of the skin to prevent inner, more vulnerable tissues, from coming in contact with the external environment.

Acquired immunity, as the name suggests, is something that develops over time through exposure to pathogens or disease causing agents like virus and bacteria. Acquired immunity kicks in either through antibodies (this is known as humoral immunity) or through cells programmed to destroy invading organisms by causing the dissolution of the very cells that have been infected.
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