Unfortunately, B cells are often overlooked; as living, dividing cells that hide away in tissues, they’re harder to isolate and study than the proteins they produce. But the antibodies they deploy can be powerful enough to quash microbes before they break into cells, potentially halting infections in their tracks - Katherine J. Wu
image by: Immunology
We now know that throughout our lifetimes, we are constantly producing new B cells. The body contains up to around 10 billion of them – equivalent to the length of 100 football pitches, if you lined them all up in a row – with each B cell containing receptors that can recognise different types of antigen shapes on the surface of a virus.
This matters because while B cells do not bind to viruses themselves, they can turn into plasma cells when they detect a threat. These plasma cells produce antibodies directed towards the same viral antigen as their native B cell. A less diverse pool of B cells means fewer antibodies that might be capable of neutralising the virus. One of the things…
In the 1960s, immunologists found that chickens which had their bursa – a major immune organ in birds – destroyed with radiation, lacked certain cells necessary to produce antibodies. These became known as Bursa-derived cells or B cells. By the mid 1970s, it was discovered that these cells form in humans in the bone marrow, before migrating to the lymph nodes or the spleen.
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