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Killer T Cells in Action

June 15, 2015

T cells, so-called because they mature in the thymus, are a type of white blood cell that circulates throughout the body searching for damaged cells that need to be destroyed. Killer T cells have receptors on their surface that recognize antigens—the molecular red flags that signal damage—on cancer cells or virus-infected cells.

The receptors and antigens fit like a lock and key. Each T cell only has one type of lock, but there are millions circulating in the body to recognize every type of antigen. When the T cell lock fits with the antigen key, it activates programs to destroy the damaged cell.