Your body has a whole host of white blood cells at its disposal to protect itself from foreign invaders but none are more specialized then lymphocytes. Your lymphocytes make up an arm of your immune system known as adaptive immunity. Compared to your innate immunity, this arm of your immune system can learn and adapt to different threats, ready to attack the next time it appears. Your innate immunity is your body guards, capable of protecting you from generic threats, but your innate immunity is like the CIA. Always learning and ever adapting.
Your lymphocytes include B cells, T cells, and Natural killer (NK) cells. Each B, T or NK cell is specific for only one invader.
B cells make antibodies in response to a foreign invader. These antibodies coat invaders making it easier for other white blood cells to kill them. B cells can form into plasma B cells or memory B cells.
- Plasma B cells are antibody factories, making huge amounts of antibodies to fight off infection.
- Memory B cells remember the invader for the next time you encounter the invader.
T cells come in a huge variety all with different specialized functions:
- Helper T cells help B cells and macrophages mature. There are many different subtypes of T helper cells who can mature different parts of the immune system depending on the invader.
- Cytotoxic T cells destroy virus infected and cancer cells.
- Memory T cells remember previous infections to mount an effective attack next time. These are typically the cells that remember vaccines.
- Suppressor T cells turn off the immune response when the infection has been resolved.
NK cells are designed to kill damaged or infected cells and cancer. They are specialized because they don’t need antibodies to identify damaged cells.