B-cells protect you from infection by making proteins called antibodies. B-cells are a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. When your immune system detects antigens — markers that indicate a threat like a bacteria or virus has entered your body — your B-cells produce antibodies to fight the invader.
B-cells are a type of white blood cell that makes infection-fighting proteins called antibodies. B-cells are an important part of your immune system, your body’s defense against harmful pathogens (viruses, bacteria and parasites) that enter your body and make you sick.
B-cells and T-cells are a specific type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes fight harmful invaders and abnormal cells, like cancer cells. T-cells protect you by destroying pathogens and sending signals that help coordinate your immune system’s response to threats. B-cells make antibodies in response to antigens (antibody generators). Antigens are markers that allow your immune system to identify substances in your body, including harmful ones like viruses and bacteria.
B-cells are also called B lymphocytes.
There are two main types of B-cells: plasma cells and memory cells. Both types help protect you from infection and disease.
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B-cells are an important part of your adaptive immune system. Your immune system includes your innate immune system and your adaptive immune system. While your innate immune system is your first defense against any threat, your adaptive immune system is specialized to recognize and fight particular types of threats (a particular virus, bacteria, etc.).
B-cells produce antibodies that destroy antigens or the pathogen associated with a particular antigen. B-cells can also remember specific antigens so your immune system can launch an effective defense if the pathogen ever enters your body again.
B-cells work with other cells in your immune system to fight harmful invaders that can make you sick and abnormal cells, like cancer cells. Once B-cells are activated, they become plasma cells that produce antibodies in response to an antigen. Or they become memory cells that remember the antigen so your immune system can quickly identify and fight it in the future.
Generally, the following steps occur when your immune system needs B-cells to fight invaders:
B-cells exist in different places depending on their stage of development. In fetuses, the liver makes B-cells. Once you’re born, B-cells develop in the spongy tissue inside your bone called bone marrow. They start as hematopoietic stem cells and eventually become B-cells during a process called hematopoiesis. Once they’re fully mature, your B-cells travel to important parts of your lymphatic system, including your spleen and lymph nodes.
Abnormal B-cells can cause autoimmune diseases and various types of cancers.
Sometimes, B-cells make antibodies in response to antigens associated with your body’s healthy cells. When this happens, the antibodies attack your healthy cells like a dangerous pathogen. This is what happens with autoimmune diseases, including:
Several cancers are associated with abnormal B-cell development, including:
The normal range of lymphocytes in adults is between 1,000 and 4,800 lymphocytes in every microliter of blood. Approximately 10% to 20% of your lymphocytes are B-cells.
Having consistently high or low B-cells may mean you have a disease or condition. Your healthcare provider will need to perform tests to be sure.
A standard test called a complete blood count (CBC) allows your healthcare provider to identify how many lymphocytes you have. It doesn’t provide specific information about specific types of lymphocytes, B-cells and T-cells.
If they suspect you have a condition related to abnormal B-cells, your provider may order other tests that provide information on specific types of lymphocytes, like a lymphocyte profile (T- and B-cell counts) or a B-cell leukemia/lymphoma panel.
There aren’t widely agreed upon natural remedies for boosting B-cells. Still, there are steps you can take to protect the B-cells you have by keeping your immune system healthy. Many of these recommendations may seem like common sense wellness strategies, but they prevent your body from exhausting essential immune system resources, including your B-cells.
You can keep your immune system healthy by:
Both T-cells and B-cells protect you from infection-causing pathogens and diseases, but they play different roles in your immune system. T-cells send signals that control your immune response (helper T-cells) or kill pathogens or infected cells directly (cytotoxic T-cells). B-cells make proteins called antibodies in response to antigens, the markers that let your body know there’s an invader. It’s the antibodies and not the B-cell directly that stops the invader.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Without B-cells, your body couldn’t make antibodies — the important proteins that help fight harmful pathogens. Along with other lymphocytes and white blood cells, your B-cells keep you infection-free and protect you from abnormal cells. Care for your B-cells and promote overall immune system health by taking steps every day to prevent infections.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/01/2023.
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