How T cells are involved and itâ€™s role for vaccine development for corona virus
How T cells are involved and it’s role for vaccine development for corona virus
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The part of the immune response that can target germs precisely and provide long-term protection is called the adaptive immune response. Two types of white blood cell are important in this: T cells and B cells. These cells work together to orchestrate a targeted immune response. But the way they recognise and deal with germs is different.
Both T cells and B cells have an important receptor molecule on their surface, not so imaginatively called the T cell receptor and the B cell receptor. B cell receptors lock onto unique structural components of a germ, or an infected cell, directly. T cells, on the other hand, need other immune cells to chew up and present parts of the germ in small fragments, which can then be scrutinised.
So for any given germ, T cells and B cells see it differently. They also respond in different ways. Even T cells don’t just do one thing. Some the cytotoxic T cells attack infected cells directly, while others the T helper cells support immune responses by helping B cells produce antibodies.
All this complexity serves to attack different germs in different ways and helps prevent unintended damage to our body’s healthy cells and tissues, as it provides multi-step checks before an immune response is fully activated.
Getting T cells and B cells to respond to a germ takes time usually several days following the initial infection. Once T and B cells have been sent to deal with a germ, the immune response subsides and long-lived memory versions of T cells and B cells are retained so that the appropriate response can be mounted much faster if the same germ is encountered again.
Vaccines try to mimic this natural process by provoking the development of long-lived memory T cells and B cells, without triggering the symptoms of a real infection. It’s not the case, though, that each type of vaccine stimulates a similar immune response. There are many types of vaccine and each will trigger a cascade of events that stimulate the immune system in a particular way.
Most vaccines will target B cells and the types of T cells that support antibody production. Yet for some infections, the antibody response may not be enough. In such cases, vaccines can also be developed to promote cytotoxic T cell activity, or perhaps a combination of both antibody and cytotoxic T cell immune responses.
Understanding the type of immune response that works best against a particular infection is important for vaccine design. And we are still learning about our adaptive immune response to the novel coronavirus.
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