Milestones | 6 December 2022

Nature Milestones: T cells

  • Foreword

  • Video

    The puzzle of the B******T cells

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world’s been thinking about how best to fight infection. And two cell types in particular have become immunity celebrities – T and B cells. But these cells were not always so well understood, in fact their function only came into focus in the 1950s and 1960s, when two researchers working on opposite sides of the world started to piece together the mystery of a previously ignored organ called the thymus.

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  • Milestone 1 1961

    Function of the thymus

  • Milestone 2 1970

    Cytotoxic T cells

  • Milestone 3 1971

    T cell memory

  • 1974

    T cells can cause disease

  • Milestone 4 1974

    MHC restriction of T cell responses

  • Milestone 5 1975

    Description of T cell coreceptors

  • Milestone 6 1977

    T cells in transplant rejection

  • Milestone 7 1983

    T cell homing, trafficking and recirculation


    The mystery of the disappearing lymphocytes

    Lymphocytes are immune cells that play vital roles in fighting infections. The most well-known lymphocytes are the T cells and B cells of the adaptive immune system. In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists performed experiments to follow lymphocytes on their journey around the body, which helped us to work out where they go and what they do. This work laid the foundation for everything we know about T cells today, including how they become activated to fight infections and how they form memory populations that provide long-lasting immunity.

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  • Milestone 8 1984

    Characterisation of the T cell receptor

  • Milestone 9 1984

    γδ T cells

  • Milestone 10 1986

    T cell activation requires costimulation

  • Milestone 11 1986

    The TH1 and TH2 paradigm

  • Milestone 12 1987

    Central tolerance

  • 1993

    Discovery of MAIT cells

  • Milestone 13 1994

    T cell immune checkpoints


    Immunology wars: monoclonal antibodies

    Our immune systems are at war with cancer. This animation reveals how monoclonal antibodies can act as valuable reinforcements to shore up our defences — and help battle cancer.

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  • Milestone 14 1994

    iNKT cells

  • Milestone 15 1995

    Functional description of regulatory T cells

  • 1998

    T cell exhaustion

  • Milestone 16 1998

    Immunological synapse

  • 2000

    T cell metabolism


    Feeding immunity

    For the immune system, fighting infections is like running a marathon. You can’t buy super fast trainers for your T cells, but can changing your diet change your immune response? Lydia Lynch’s lab at Harvard is looking at how what we eat effects what our immune cells can do.

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  • Milestone 17 2001

    Tissue resident memory T cells

  • Milestone 18 2005

    Description of TH17 cells

  • Milestone 19 2009

    Follicular helper T cells

  • Milestone 20 2010

    CAR T cells


    Tumor immunology and immunotherapy

    This animation created by Nature Reviews Cancer and Nature Reviews Immunology illustrates how tumour cells are sensed and destroyed by cells of the immune system and how tumours can evolve to evade immune-mediated elimination. Scientists are developing new immunotherapies that help the immune system to ‘fight back’ — the animation explains how these exciting new drugs work.

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  • 2011

    T cell vaccines

Nature Milestones: T cells

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