This Cell is Inside You

And you’d be dead without it

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Dendritic cell drawn by the author (inspired by Kurzgesagt)

This weird-looking cell is inside your body and it’s crucial for your survival. It’s called a dendritic cell.

It also has a very interesting job: eating and vomiting stuff.

That’s right! The dendritic cell’s job is to go around your body and constantly intaking stuff and then vomiting it out. Very useful I know!

But it’s most useful when an infection is taking place. Once it encounters a bacteria, it swallows it and breaks it into pieces. If that wasn’t cruel enough, it starts displaying the bacteria pieces in its octopus-like tentacles.

Kind of like this:

Dendritic Cells Displaying Bacteria Pieces on its Surface

Once it knows that it swallowed a bacteria, it stops vomiting stuff and starts heading towards another type of cell: T cells.

What the Hell are T Cells?

T cells are part of the magnificent Adaptive Immune System. As its name suggests, it can adapt to almost any disease there is.

So from the common cold to Ebola, to literally giant parasites, whatever it is, your Adaptive Immune System is prepared for it.

In fact, it’s even prepared for it before the disease arrives. Technically your body is prepared for an intergalactic disease that will appear 1 million years from now. You were also prepared for COVID-19 before it even existed.

But, how?

Well, it’s complicated. Essentially, your body contains billions of T cells that are specific for every disease that has existed and will ever exist.

Remember that intergalactic disease that will appear 1 million years from now? Your body has maybe 10 cells that are prepared for when that happens.

Exactly how your body accomplishes this is a story for a whole other article.

To recapitulate: when your body is infected, dendritic cells leave the battlefield showing pieces of the bacteria in their tentacles and look for those T cells prepared for that specific disease.