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What Is Involved in the Production of Lymphocytes?

A diagram showing different types of white blood cells, including lymphocytes.
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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
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The production of lymphocytes in the body is a detailed process. A lymphocyte is created in the bone marrow. After it is created, it migrates to a certain part of the body. For example, T cells become T lymphocytes and migrate to the thymus, while B cells become B lymphocytes and remain in the bone marrow. Once the cells migrate, they can mature completely. When they are fully matured, they travel through the body. where they protect against foreign antigens and abnormal cells.

A human’s immune system is complex and is responsible for protecting the body from pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. In order to accomplish this task, specific white blood cells called lymphocytes are made. The production of lymphocytes creates important cells that work to protect the body. Natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells are types of lymphocytes that each play a role in immune function. T cells and B cells become part of the adaptive immune system, which learns to protect against future invasions of an antigen. The innate immune system is composed mainly of natural killer cells, which contribute to an immediate response to remove antigens.

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The production of lymphocytes begins in bone marrow as B cells or T cells in a process called hematopoiesis. These cells then grow and develop into the respective lymphocytes. B lymphocytes remain in bone marrow to continue growing. T lymphocytes travel to the thymus to continue growing. When the lymphocytes have matured, they migrate into the body’s circulatory system, where they wait to detect foreign antigens and harmful cells, such as those that cause cancer.

After migrating into the circulatory system, lymphocytes begin to change. When lymphocytes are exposed to antigens, they change again. They will become memory or effector lymphocytes, which means that they will remember exposure to respond to future invasions or eliminate antigens. As existing lymphocytes respond to invasion, the body begins to produce more lymphocytes to help fight the antigen cells. This increases lymphocyte counts in the blood.

An increase in the production of lymphocytes raises the ratio of lymphocytes. Generally, increased lymphocyte counts occur as a result of viral infections. In some cases, forms of leukemia are the cause of an increase in lymphocytes.

Decreases in the production of lymphocytes reduce the ratio of lymphocytes. Low lymphocyte counts most commonly occur from diseases that attack the immune system and its cells. T cells are the ones that are often attacked, which reduces the amount of protection the immune system provides and leaves the body vulnerable to many kinds of infection and illness.

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