There are two distinct arms of our immune system:
- The innate immune system is the first line of defense against pathogens, providing a non-specific and immediate response.
- In contrast, the adaptive immune system leverages T cells and B cells to mount a highly specific response through the use of specialized immune receptors.
T cells (also called T lymphocytes) are a major component of the adaptive immune system. Our bodies have many millions of different T cells. Each T cell will develop its own T cell receptor (TCR) that is specific for a particular antigen (tiny piece of pathogen or virus that is displayed on a cell’s surface). T cells constantly scan other cells for an antigen match. Their roles include directly killing infected host cells, activating other immune cells, and regulating the immune response.
T cells are activated every day as our bodies defend against disease-causing antigens. Harnessing this power requires a deep understanding of the codes that activate them, and that code is determined by the immune synapse, the key interface of cell-mediated immunity and the molecular interface through which a T cell interacts with an antigen-presenting cell.