T cells are also known as T lymphocytes. Part of the white blood cell group lymphocytes, along side of B cells and NK or natural killer cells. There are different subsets of the T cells, each fulfilling a unique function. T cells get their name because they are produced and matured in the thymus gland. Lets take a look at the different T cells in the immune system.
The Types of T Cells in the Immune System
Four of the most common T cells are listed, each responsible for a specific immune function.
Helper T Cell
The Helper T Cell lives us to its name, helping in the maturation and production of other essential immune responses. Helper T Cells are activated once exposed to peptide antigens. They respond by dividing quickly, increasing in number rapidly. Helper T Cells start producing a small protein called Cytokines, these Cytokines balance your immune response.
Cytotoxic T Cell
Cytotoxic T Cells are also known as Killer T Cells, because they do just that. These T cells hunt down infected cells, damaged cells and cancerous cells, killing them before they can cause serious damage. They recognize antigens (cells capable of triggering an immune response) lock onto them and destroy them if able.
Memory T Cell
A memory T Cell is much like a grizzled war veteran, it has encountered a specific virus or antigen before, and it remembers how to defeat it. Your body holds onto these Memory Cells to increase the defences against that specific threat, essentially the memory of your immune system. This is why vaccinations work, you are exposed to a lessened form of a virus so your body has practice defeating it, making you much less susceptible to future infection.
Regulatory T Cell
Regulatory T Cells are also known as suppressor T Cells, much like their name suggests, they regulate our immune system. These T cells ensure our body doesn’t respond to every antigen in our system, leaving good bacteria alone while fighting off harmful bacteria. They quite literally suppress the immune response of certain cells.
A Lively End Result
All these T cells working together ensures your immune system is functioning effectively. You need to recognize the invading cell, kill off damaged or infected cells, remember how to defeat these cells and finally regulate this response to only target harmful invaders. Quite the onus to be placed on one small set of white blood cells in our body, they have had quite a bit of time to perfect their art though. This is the natural immunity function of humans and animals alike, evolving with every encounter and keeping our bodies working properly.
Thank you T Cells! From the bottom of our immune systems we thank you!