What Are B Cells?

There are two major types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells.

B-cells, also known as B lymphocytes, are one of several types of white blood cells in the body that are produced in the bone marrow through a process called hematopoiesis, which is the formation and development of both red and white blood cells.

B-cells roam the body as part of our immune system, protecting us from foreign antigens that pose a threat to our health.

Why the letter B?

B-cells get their name not from research done into human anatomy but from research done into the anatomy of birds. But 'birds' isn't the origin of the B; instead, B-cells were named after the site in birds where this specific type of blood cell matures, called the bursa of Fabricius. Fortunately, in humans and many other mammals B-cells mature in the bone marrow, allowing the B to continue to make sense.

To that end, T-cells get their letter designation from the site where they mature too; in this case, it is the thymus.

The role of B-cells

Once they mature, B-cells leave the bone marrow and begin to circulate throughout the body by way of the blood and lymphatic system, or they might hang around in any one of the many lymphoid organs (thymus, lymph nodes, spleen).

B-cells are distinct from other cells in the immune system by their display of membrane-bound immunoglobin molecules. This means that on the surface of a single B-cell there are thousands of molecules of antibody, and they all have an identical binding site for antigen.

When that specific binding site on the cell meets the antigen that matches it, it kicks in an adaptive immune response to this threat: the B-cell begins to divide very quickly. In doing so, it creates two types of daughter cells: plasma cells and memory B cells, both of which have a separate function in the immune system.

More Articles

More Articles

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a rare type of B-Cell lymphoma. It presents itself in the mantle zone of lymph nodes...

Large Cell Lymphoma (LCL) is typically an aggressive (fast growing) cancer of either the B cell or T cell type. They are one of the most common...

Indolent Lymphoma, or Indolent Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas (NHLs), are slow growing, low-grade cancers (as opposed to ...

A lymphoma prognosis varies greatly depending on the type of lymphoma. There are more than 35 types of lymphoma, including 5 types of...

Lymphomas are classified based on the type of cells involved. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are marked by mutations of...

Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Disease) has a colorful history: It was not the first cancer discovered but it was one of the first in which treatments were...

There are two types of cancer: benign and malignant. Benign cancers are the kind that don't spread and don't threaten one's life. Malignant...

Cancer bracelets are undeniably popular, and if purchased through reliable sources such as major charities, they help contribute to the fight...

Hodgkin's Disease—also referred to as Hodgkin's Lymphoma, these are the exact same diseases, just...

Lymphoma is a cancer of the b- and t-cell lymphocytes, part of the immune system. They account for the most frequent head and neck malignancies....

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, causing B-cell or...

Lymphoma is a cancer affecting the white blood cells (lymphocytes) of the body's immune system. The cells begin to grow abnormally and much faster...

As a kind of cancer, lymphoma attacks the lymphocytes and lymph nodes that are part of the immune system. Head and neck lymphoma results when...

Some cancers have clear environmental causes. Oral cancer is strongly tied to the use of chewing tobacco, and lung cancer is well-known to be much...

The Follicular Lymphoma International Prognostic Index, or FLIPI, is a standardized guide to help oncological diagnosticians accurately calculate...