Medical Definition of T-helper cell

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017

T-helper cell: A type of T cell that provides help to other cells in the immune response by recognizing foreign antigens and secreting substances called cytokines that activate T and B cells. T-helper cells fall into two main classes: those that activate other T cells to achieve cellular inflammatory responses; and those that drive B cells to produce antibodies in the humoral immune response. These two classes of response are generally incompatible with one another and require coordination by substances called cytokines to promote one response while dampening the other.

The HIV virus attacks T-helper cells, knocking out the body's ability to defend itself against infections.

T-helper cells have CD4 markers on their surface. They are a special subpopulation of CD4 cells. They are also called helper cells and helper T cells.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017