The immune system includes specialized white blood cells, called lymphocytes that adapt themselves to fight specific foreign invaders. These cells develop into two groups in the bone marrow.
From the bone marrow, one group of lymphocytes migrates to a gland called the thymus and become T lymphocytes or T cells. Within the thymus, the T cells mature under the influence of several hormones.
The T cells mature into several different types, including helper, killer and suppressor cells. T cells are responsible for cell-mediated immunity. This type of immunity becomes deficient in persons with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, because HIV attacks and destroys helper T cells.
The other group of lymphocytes, B lymphocytes or B cells, mature and develop within the bone marrow itself. In that process, they achieve the ability to recognize specific foreign invaders. From the bone marrow, B cells migrate through the body fluids to the lymph nodes, spleen and blood. B lymphocytes provide the body with humoral immunity as they circulate in the fluids in search of specific foreign invaders to destroy.
Review Date 2/2/2020
Updated by: Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.