Ask A Scientist: What’s the Difference Between Naïve and Memory T Cells?

ask a scientistWe’re often asked about naïve T cells and memory T cells; specifically if we have both types in our inventory. We do carry both types of CD4+ T cells from multiple donors, and savvy researchers know when to ask for each.

Naïve T cells are essential components of the immune system that enable the body to fight off new, unrecognized infections and diseases. You can use naïve T cells to develop T regulatory cells, or skew cytokine expression patterns to TH1 or TH2 types.

Memory T cells are enriched for response to recall antigens. They have a lower activation threshold than naïve T cells, so they are more easily stimulated by antigen in vitro. Memory T cells are critical for understanding effective vaccinations, studying antigen-specific immune system responses, and testing checkpoint inhibitors.

For more information on the similarities and differences between naïve and memory T cells, view our infographic below.

Infographic Comparing Naive and Memory T Cells - Astarte Biologics


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Comparing Naïve and Memory T Cells

Naïve T Cells


Bone marrow



Express CD45RA, CD62L, IL-7 receptors

Absence of CD25, CD44, CD69, memory CD45RO

Quiescent, non-dividing


Respond to antigens the immune system has never encountered

Recognize cognate antigen and initiate an immune response

Enable immune system to respond to new pathogens

Use Cases:

Developing T cells with distinct cytokine expression patterns (TH1/TH2/TH17)

Making T regulatory cells

Memory T Cells


Lymph nodes

Peripheral circulation



Central Memory T Cells (TCM): Express CD45RO, CCR7, CD62L, CD44

Effector Memory T Cells (TEM): Express CD45RO, Absence of CCR7, CD62L


Recognize and respond to bacteria, viruses and cancer cells previously encountered

Respond to antigens the immune system has encountered through infection or vaccination

Use Cases:

Vaccine development

T lymphocyte proliferation assays

Studying antigen-specific responses and checkpoint inhibitors

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