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How do the various T cells function in the immune system?

Lymphocytes are different from other types of white blood cells because they recognize and remember invading bacteria and viruses. T lymphocytes, or T cells, are responsible for cell-mediated immunity.

T cells come in many types with specific functions, including:

  • Helper T cells direct the immune system. In a rather lengthy process, helper T cells release cytokines. Cytokines stimulate B cells to form plasma cells. Plasma cells form antibodies, which stimulate the production of two other types of T cells: cytotoxic T cells and suppressor T cells. Helper T cells are the cells attacked by the AIDS virus. You can imagine the devastating effect of destroying the T cells that direct the immune system.
  • Cytotoxic T cells release certain chemicals that break open to kill invading organisms.
  • Memory T cells remain after this process to help the immune system respond more quickly when the same organism is encountered again.
  • Suppressor T cells do what you might think. They "suppress" the immune response so it does not destroy normal cells once the immune response has done its job.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.