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Specialised cells


Cells are adapted to perform different roles within living organisms.

15. White blood cells


LO1: MUST describe the types of white blood cells.
LO2: SHOULD link their structure to their function in
fighting infection.



describe in detail how white blood cells fight

How does our body prevent infection?

Bacteria and viruses are pathogens
they reproduce rapidly inside the body
bacteria may produce poisons / toxins that make us
feel ill
viruses live (and reproduce) inside cells causing cell
1. Keep them out. The skin is a physical barrier. Many body
fluids contain protective enzymes.
2. Seal all wounds rapidly. Platelets produce fibres that trap
Red blood cells and form a clot to seal wounds.
3. Destroy any pathogens that get in.
4. Produce antitoxins.

White blood cells can:
ingest pathogens and destroy them
Fighting infection
produce antibodies to destroy pathogens
produce antitoxins that neutralise the toxins released by pathogens
There are several different types of white blood cells, each with
different functions, but they can be put into two main groups:
phagocytes or macrophages
Phagocytes can easily pass through blood vessel walls into the
surrounding tissue and move towards pathogens or toxins. They
then either:
ingest and absorb the pathogens or toxins
release an enzyme to destroy them
Having absorbed a pathogen, the phagocytes may also send out
chemical messages that help nearby lymphocytes to identify the
type of antibody needed to neutralise them.

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and they play an important role in
the immune system .
They have multi-lobed nuclei, which enables them to squeeze though small
gaps when travelling to the site of infection.
The cytoplasm holds lysosomes that contain enzymes that are used to digest
pathogens that are ingested by the neurophil. Neutrophil phagocytosis

Pathogens contain certain chemicals that are foreign to the body and are called
Each lymphocyte carries a specific type of antibody - a protein that has a chemical
'fit' to a certain antigen.
When a lymphocyte with the appropriate antibody meets the antigen, the
lymphocyte reproduces quickly, and makes many copies of the antibody that
neutralises the pathogen.
Antibodies neutralise pathogens in a number of ways:
they bind to pathogens and damage or destroy them
they coat pathogens, clumping them together so that they are easily ingested by
they bind to the pathogens and release chemical signals to attract more phagocytes
Lymphocytes may also release antitoxins that stick to the appropriate toxin and stop
it damaging the body.

What happens during inflammation?

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What are lymphocytes?

Lymphocytes are a type
of white blood cell
(leukocyte) found in the
blood and lymph nodes.
Lymphocytes recognise
antigen molecules on the
surface of pathogens, and
co-ordinate the immune
response against that
Collectively, lymphocytes can recognize millions of different
antigens, due to the large variation of lymphocytes produced.
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Boardworks Ltd 2008