T-cell like B-cells are white blood cells that are essential for the function of the immune system and its ability to protect the body against pathogens.
These cells are the core of adaptive immunity – the body’s second line of defence and target a specific pathogen. T-cells originate in the bone marrow but mature in the thymus (hence T-cells) before being released into the bloodstream.
There are three types of T-cells:
- Helper T-cells begin the adaptive immune response and boost the immune system. They use cytokine messenger molecules which send chemical instructions to the rest of the immune system to ramp up its response. They also stimulate B-cells to produce antibodies. Without them, the body’s ability to fight infection is very poor.
- Killer cells kill and destroy cells that have already been infected
- Suppressor cells stop the immune response when the infection is over.
T-cells live much longer than “generic” immune cells, and as long as there are some T-cells – adapted to a specific disease – the body remains immune. The discovery that T-cells play a significant role in combatting COVID-19 is a good sign for the development of vaccines because it confirms that our immune system is likely to develop a long-term immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
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