From the time the coronavirus outbreak has begun, scientists have gone through several trials and research to create the best solution. At first, scientists discovered that there are patients who can recover from the coronavirus themselves. However, they didn’t have an idea about the antibodies against it. Next, they found that significant people might or might have antibodies. The next research explored that people who do develop antibodies tend to lose them after a few months.
To sum up, antibodies have proven to be invaluable for tracking the spread of coronavirus. However, they might not have a leading role in terms of immunity as we had previously thought. Thus, more long-term protection needs to come from somewhere else. The good news is, while everyone is doing constant research with antibodies, there can be a change of having another form of immunity. In some cases, scientists have found that there is an undetected form of immunity that is in the body and has been lurking around for years.
There is an enigmatic type of white blood cell that is gaining prominence. While it hasn’t been featured widely under public consciousness, the element can prove crucial to fight the coronavirus. It could be a big moment for T cells. When researchers tested on samples of blood that were taken years before coronavirus pandemic started, they had discovered that T cells were tailored to detect proteins on the surface of COVID-19.
What do T cells do?
T-cells are a type of immune cell that performs the major task of identifying and killing infected cells and invading pathogens. They do the same by utilizing proteins present on their surface. Such proteins easily blend with the same that are present on the surface of the pathogen cells. Moreover, every T cell is highly significant which means that all the trillions of potential versions of the surface protein can each find out a specific goal. Besides, T cells can be present in the blood even years after infection. Therefore, they are some of the major contributors to the “long-term memory” of the immune system. Moreover, the T cells present in the blood allow the immune system to mount faster and respond more effectively during exposure to an old foe.
According to various pieces of research, people who have been tested positive for COVID-19 usually have T cells that can easily target the virus. The same can happen irrespective of whether the symptoms are severe. On the contrary, a few scientists have also come up with experiments that prove otherwise. According to these reports, some people can test positive when it comes to T cells and negatives in the case of antibodies.
The experiment is of course in light of the recent novel coronavirus. Besides, these are the same T cells that can target the virus as mentioned earlier. As a result, experts believe that there is another version that they are yet to explore in this case. It means there may be a certain level of immunity against COVID-19 that is originally twice as common, as they previously discovered.
Bizarre results of blood sample testing
The most bizarre of all the latest facts is what researchers found while testing blood samples. The same samples were all collected several years back when no one had even heard of the pandemic. So, these blood samples are found to contain the same T cells that are now being modified to target proteins scattered over the surface of the coronavirus. Therefore, it becomes clear that there are so many people around who already possess a level of resistance against COVID-19. Imagine being in that zone when the dangerous virus was not even known by people in the world. Moreover, the fact is prevalent too, and around 40%-60% of people fall under this category of having pre-resistance.
The most important functions of T cells will help to clear out some of the quirks that have till now eluded an explanation. The range is wide starting from the dramatic rise in the risk that a person is facing due to the virus as they start aging to the surprising discovery of the fact that the same can damage the spleen. Understanding the significance of T cells is just not a subject of academic curiosity. So, if scientists can successfully identify those aspects of the immunity system that hold the maximum importance, they can focus better on developing the correct treatments and vaccines.
The process of unfolding immunity
Most of us have not even thought about developing an understanding of T lymphocytes or simply T cells. The last time we probably read about these terms was when we were in school. However, if you still want to know how important the T cells are for your immunity, you can explore the late-stage sources. For example, the stubborn fevers, fatigue, sores, rare cancers, weight loss, and more are some of the sources. In all of these cases, microbes such as Candida albicans, that are otherwise harmless also start affecting the body adversely.
Over a considerable period, HIV acts as a type of T cell genocide. The major functions of the same are to find the problematic cells, go inside them, and damage them in a fantastic pattern. According to an immunology professor at King’s College London and group leader at the Francis Crick Institute Adrian Hayday, the cells wipe out a large portion of the troublesome counterparts. He adds that the concept above is what makes the importance of T cells. Besides, he mentions that you are wrong to believe that only antibodies can crack the main deal because they can’t.
Advance stage of the process
What happens during the process of the normal immune response, to suppose an influenza virus? Well, the first step of defense involves the inherent immune system. Moreover, the process involves chemical signals and white blood cells that raise the actual alarm. Therefore, the production of antibodies starts and starts kicking-in properly within the next few weeks. According to Professor Hayday, within those upcoming few days post the infection, the activation of T cells starts multiplying at an increasing rate.
The most important indication of this event is that the T cells now start to recognize the other infected cells. Therefore, the healthy T cells will then quickly destroy the infected cells. Sometimes, the other parts of the immune system also participate in the process of destroying the infected cells. As a result, the virus does not multiply inside the body deteriorating the health of a patient.
There is good news and a bad one too
Professor Hayday puts more light on the concept of what we know about COVID-19, and of course the T cells. He says that it makes him happy when people are testing positive, but not having to go to the hospital. It makes the function and existence of T cells clearer than ever. Besides, it is good news for everyone who takes an interest in the development of vaccines because it is evident that developing vaccines is possible.
It is because the examples around and the existing concepts both say that creating antibodies and T cells that can identify the virus will be of great help. Oxford University has already developed a vaccine that is showing success in enhancing the production of useful cells, apart from the antibodies. However, it is still not time to conclude how effective the response of the entire experiment will be.
According to a research group member who is working on the experiment tells the BBC News that the results are indeed promising. Unfortunately, the ones who are experiencing more severe symptoms and are having to stay in the hospital are not responding much to the T cell experiment. So, there is an evident limitation in the big plan that needs to be clearer. According to Professor Hayday, a massive number of T cells are experiencing effects.
He compares the result with a stag night or a wedding party that just went wrong. It means that the huge amount of proliferation and activity is ultimately unable to keep the blood cells intact. They seem to be randomly disappearing from the blood. One theory says that the cells are redirecting towards the sections that require them the most, for example, the lungs. However, a counter-theory suggests that the cells are dying instead.
More revelations by Professor Adrian Hayday
The Professor reveals that the autopsy results of COVID-19 patients are showing necrosis, which is a type of rotting. The same is mostly occurring in areas such as the lymph glands and the spleen. These are also where the majority of T cells gather. Unfortunately, spleen necrosis is one of the trademark T cell-related problems. In this case, the immune cells are ones that face a massive attack on them. Hayday adds that you will find the same thing happening if you check forensic reports of AIDS patients. While it is clear that HIV is capable of directly affecting the T cells, the application of the same is still not found in the case of COVID-19.
According to Hayday, there are several potential explanations of the above concepts. However, he is sure that nobody is still sure about any of them. There is still no clear idea of what is happening. On one side there is strong evidence that backs the fact that T cells are protection for several years. However, in the case of severe symptoms, the entire protective defense mechanism does not seem to work properly. The T cells of dwindling nature may somewhere be the ones responsible in this case. They may be the reasons why elderly people are more prone to get severely affected by the virus in comparison to others.
What happened after the experiment?
In the above context, the Professor talks about an important experiment that was conducted back in 2011. In this, mice were exposed to a probable version of the Sars virus. During previous researches, it became clear that Sars, also a type of coronavirus triggers the multiplication of T cells. The same in turn helps in clearing out the infection. the follow-up study of this experiment was also a success.
The only difference was that during the follow-up, the scientists allowed the mice to grow old. As a result, what became clear is that the T-cell responses were much weaker as the mice were growing older. Hayday points out that the above is an interesting experiment because it points out the fact as to why elderly people are more in danger. As you reach the 30s, the thymus gland between your lungs and behind the sternum starts shrinking. Therefore, the T cell production starts diminishing at an alarming rate given that the thymus plays a vital role in the process.
The relation between long-lasting T cells and COVID-19
The fact that COVID-19 may lead to long-lasting T cells is the recent inspiration of scientists who are now checking very old blood samples. All of these samples of blood are part of collection between 2015 to 2018. The aim is to find out whether any of these samples can recognize COVID-19. If the concept of the relation between T cells and COVID-19 is genuine, then another concept will become clear from these blood samples. It is that encountering symptoms of the common flu with similar surface proteins have made them capable of recognizing something as massive as COVID-19.
The tantalizing possibility arising at this point is that people who are experiencing severe symptoms do not have the proper amount of T cells in their bodies. Therefore, it is not becoming possible for them to target the virus. Besides, people who have experienced severe cases of common flu in the past are the ones who are a bit more protected now from the coronavirus. It is because their bodies have the maximum pre-resistance to the same kind of properties that belong to the virus.