Lymphocytes: Types, Functions, and Related Diseases

Our best ally to stay healthy is the immune system. It is made up of groupings of cells and organs that work hard as a team to defend the body from antigens such as bacteria, cancer cells, and viruses. The moment a foreign agent enters our body, these cells are put into action, among them, the lymphocytes… But what exactly are they?

What are they?

They are a type of leukocytes, which are part of the body’s immune groupings. These are divided into:

B lymphocytes

They are responsible for producing proteins known as gamma and globulins. In addition, they have an important role in the production of antibodies. They are like the detective looking for the criminal, tracking his steps and once he has him in his sights, he goes straight to catch him! In a similar way B lymphocytes against an antigen.

Once these bind to the invading elements, they produce specific plasma cells to fight and destroy them. In addition, they are divided into subtypes:

  • Memory lymphocytes: they are always ready to divide and generate responses to a threat
  • Effector cells: they are immunocompetent, that is, they have the sole function of eliminating cells altered by some virus.

However, B lymphocytes cannot penetrate tissues, and it is there that their work is complemented by that of T.

T lymphocytes

On the other hand, T lymphocytes are cells that regulate immune responses and act as alerts for other cells the moment an intruder enters the system. They have their origin from B, with membranes in their structure that allow them to be receptors for the TCR and, through it, to identify the antigen easier.

Lymphocyte-related diseases

Among the clinical diseases that are related to these leukocytes and the way in which they damage the immune system, are lymphomas. These are a type of cancer on lymphocytes which are classified as Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

See also the conditions related to the level of these cells: High Lymphocytes and Low Lymphocytes.

Hodgkin’s disease

Represents 25% of lymphomas in patients. This disease can appear towards the end of adolescence, as well as in the mid-fifties to the seventies. It originates in one lymph node until it has spread to all the nodes. In its expansion process, it affects the liver, bone marrow, intestines and spleen.

Non-Hodgkinin disease

The non-Hodgkin disease represents 75% of lymphomas. It appears in patients of legal age. This type of cancer originates in B lymphocytes, and differs from Hodgkin’s disease because the tumor does not appear in the lymph node but in other areas of the body, such as the thyroid gland.

This type of cancer can take many years to manifest and will not pose a greater risk to health if it is diagnosed early. However, there are cases in which it develops very quickly, taking a few weeks, thus representing a threat to the life of the patient.

Autoimmune diseases

With the loss of B lymphocytes, in conjunction with the excessive production of antibodies, an autoimmune disease occurs. Currently more than 80 diseases of this type have been diagnosed, the most common being:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Before their appearance, B lymphocytes are prompted to secrete autoreactive antibodies, as well as to secrete chemokine cytosines, harmful to the human body.

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