In order to maintain our immune system and keep the processes run smoothly, as explained in Part 1, we do need an important actor in the whole game. May I introduce you to your very own police department – the lymphocytes.
Who are they?
Lymphocytes are the police in our body and belong to the well-known leukocytes. They detect all foreign substances, viruses, and bacteria in our body. To protect us, they are constantly learning. There are two types of lymphocytes: The B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes.
The B-lymphocytes are responsible for the specific and non-specific defense against intruders. Therefore they form antibodies that combine in the key-lock principle (one key fits into one lock) with antigens so that the intruders are getting detected by the killer cells and destroyed right away. You can imagine the antibodies like a special force of the police – specialized for one certain antigen.
The T-lymphocytes monitor the condition of our body’s cells and immediately raise alarm in case of pathological changes. They recognize them and destroy cells infected with viruses immediately.
How do they get created and trained?
The B-lymphocytes are created in the bone marrow and trained there directly to recognize foreign matter.
The T-lymphocytes are also created in the bone marrow and then going to the thymus for training. However, the thymus gradually recedes from puberty onwards, so that in adulthood there are hardly any immune activities and the number of T-lymphocytes is decreasing.
Some other family members
In order to work efficiently, the lymphocytes actually need someone who is cleaning up their mess, after they have destroyed the intruder. Fortunately, they have monocytes and granulocytes at their side. Both are the killer command and eat all intruders and foreign substances, including those that are destroyed by the lymphocytes.
How do they all play together?
The T-lymphocytes monitor our body by looking closely at our “guests”. They can distinguish between “good” and “bad” guys. When an intruder is discovered, the T-lymphocytes read its profile and tell the security guards (the B-lymphocytes) to produce antibodies against the intruder. They know exactly how to destroy them. If the intruder is destroyed, the killer commands (monocytes and granulocytes) come and eat up the dead intruders so that none of them are remaining in our body.
In the next part, I will explain to you where you can actually find more lymphocytes in your body and how they can ensure kicking out the bad guys e.g. virus, bacteria.