Sticking Out Our Necks, the FREE Monthly Thyroid News Report, Enter your email address here for a free subscription

Or Click Here to Send a "Subscribe" Email
Home | Newsletters| Bookstore | News | Community | Links | Articles/FAQs | Diet Info Ctr | Top Drs | Contact


Latest Update:

Understanding the Immune System

Adapted by Mary Shomon

antibodyLymphocytes are small white blood cells that bear the major responsibility for carrying out the activities of the immune system; they number about one trillion. The two major classes of lymphocytes are: B cells, which grow to maturity independent of the thymus, and T cells, which are processed in the thymus. Both B cells and T cells recognize specific antigen targets.

B cells work chiefly by secreting soluble substances called antibodies into the body's fluids, or humors. (This is known as humoral immunity.) Antibodies typically interact with circulating antigens such as bacteria and toxic molecules, but are unable to penetrate living cells. T cells, in contrast, interact directly with their targets, attacking body cells that have been commandeered by viruses or warped malignancy. (This is cellular immunity.)

Although small lymphocytes look identical, even under the microscope, they can be told apart by means of distinctive molecules they carry on their cell surface. Not only do such markers distinguish between B cells and T cells, they distinguish among various subsets of cells that behave differently. Every mature T cell, for instance, carries a marker known as T3 (or CD3); in addition, most helper T cells carry a T4 (CD4) marker, a molecule that recognizes class II MHC antigens. A molecule known as T8 (CD8), which recognizes class I MHC antigens, is found on many suppressor/cytotoxic T cells. In addition, different T cells have different kinds of antigen receptors-either alpha/beta or gamma/delta.

Previous Page | Next Page

Sticking Out Our Necks and this website are Copyright Mary Shomon, 1997-2003. All rights reserved. Mary Shomon, Editor/Webmaster
All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician or health practitioner before starting a new treatment program. Please see our full disclaimer.