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What Are Plasma Cells?

Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell and are produced in a person's bone marrow.
A bag of blood plasma.
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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2014
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Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. As such, they are an important part of the immune system. They are formed from B cells produced in a person's bone marrow. Once produced, B cells mainly stay within the marrow and wait until an antigen appears in the body. Antigens bind to the cell and stimulate it to form plasma cells. These cells then produces antibodies to destroy the pathogen.

There are five types of white blood cells in the body: nuetrophils, eosinophil, basophil, lymphocytes, and monocytes. Lymphocytes are divided into three types of cells: T cells, natural killer cells, and B cells. T cells migrate to the thymus where they wait until called for. Natural killer cells are those that destroy damaged cells that could grow out of control. All three types of lymphocytes exist to help the body defend itself against disease.

Plasma cells are just one method the body uses to fight diseases. Each produces a particular antibody to neutralize a particular antigen. When an antigen enters the body, it must first bind to a B cell, which then proliferates to form plasma cells. Those cells then secrete antibodies that inactivate the pathogen and mark it for destruction. Normally, a cell will produce antibodies for four to five days and will then die.

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When a new antigen enters the body, some time is needed until the body can develop antibodies to fight it. Naive B-cells will first have to be activated in order to be able to respond to a specific disease causing agent. The antigen itself does this while it is flowing through the body. When it encounters a naive B cell, it will bind to it and help trigger clonal selection. Clonal selection is the process by which activated B cells multiply in order to form several clones of itself.

Some of these clones become plasma cells, which are then able to produce antibodies against the disease causing agent. Some clone cells, however, become memory cells and can last in the body for years. Their purpose is to provide a quick response to the antigen should it appear in the body in the future. This way, it will not take the body as long to fight the same disease.

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anon306894
Post 10

It is true that there are six types of white blood cells? basophils; eosinophils; neutrophils; monocytes; lymphocytes; plasma cells?

anon299054
Post 9

Are you familiar with Osteoschlertic myeloma (poems syndrome)? This is also a cancer of the Plasma cells, but I believe it is different than Multiple Myeloma. I want to know how it is different.

anon248708
Post 8

Would anyone know where I can find an illustrated diagram of a plasma cell? Possibly one taken by a transmission electron microscope also? It would be very helpful for my project!

anon123163
Post 7

what is the structure and function of plasma cells? also what do they look like?

anon119117
Post 6

I am sophomore nursing student at TCU, and here I am and using this website on regular I mean daily basis. Great job all you commentators and web people! keep up with the awesome work!

wesley91
Post 5

@momothree: The diagnosis is made by measuring amounts of different antibodies in the blood and urine. It is usually necessary to have a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

So far, for the year 2010, there have been 20,180 new cases of plasma cell myeloma. Out of those, there were 10,650 deaths.

Despite the advances in therapy, plasma cell myeloma remains incurable. Patients with this myeloma are often given corticosteroids, such as prednisone. There are new drugs being tested that show great promise. Chemotherapy slows the progression of plasma cell myeloma by killing abnormal plasma cells.

momothree
Post 4

@wesley91: How is multiple myeloma (plasma cell myeloma) diagnosed? Also, what is the usual multiple myeloma prognosis?

wesley91
Post 3

@gardenturtle: There is a condition called plasma cell myeloma (also known as multiple myeloma, Kahler disease, and myelomatosis). It is a type of cancer that begins in the plasma cells. It occurs when abnormal plasma cells multiply uncontrollably in the bone marrow.

People with this condition often have bone pain and even fractures. They may also have kidney problems, weakness and confusion.

GardenTurtle
Post 2

Isn't there some type of cancer that effects plasma cells?

anon50414
Post 1

This is a very useful site. I like it very much. It's very easy for learning. I can understand every topic very easily. I'm a physiologist student and this is very helpful for me. from shahab tariq; country: pakistan

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