Researchers reveal the clearest new pictures of immune cells

Scientists from The University of Manchester have revealed new images which provide the clearest picture yet of how white blood immune cells attack viral infections and tumours.

They show how the cells, which are responsible for fighting infections and cancer in the human body, change the organisation of their surface molecules, when activated by a type of protein found on viral-infected or .

Professor Daniel Davis, who has been leading the investigation into the immune cells, known as natural killers, said the work could provide important clues for tackling disease.

The research reveals the proteins at the surface of immune cells are not evenly spaced but grouped in clusters - a bit like stars bunched together in galaxies.

Professor Davis, Director of Research at the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR), a partnership between the University and two pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Astra Zeneca, said: "This is the first time scientists have looked at how these immune cells work at such a high resolution. The surprising thing was that these new pictures revealed that immune cell surfaces alter at this scale – the nano scale – which could perhaps change their ability to be activated in a subsequent encounter with a diseased cell.

"We have shown that immune cells are not evenly distributed as once thought, but instead they are grouped in very small clumps – a bit like if you were an astronomer looking at clusters of stars in the Universe and you would notice that they were grouped in clusters.

"We studied how these clusters or proteins change when the immune cells are switched on – to kill . Looking at our cells in this much detail gives us a greater understanding about how the immune system works and could provide useful clues for developing drugs to target disease in the future."

Until now the limitations of have prevented a clear understanding of how detect other cells as being diseased or healthy.

The team used high quality, super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to view the cells in blood samples in their laboratory to create the still images published in the journal Science Signalling this week.

Related Stories

Modified immune cells seek and destroy melanoma

Jun 24, 2013

In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers led by Scott Pruitt at Duke University and Merck Research Laboratories report on a human clinical trial in which modified dendritic cells, a component of the ...

Recommended for you

Team untangles the biological effects of blue light

11 hours ago

Blue light can both set the mood and set in motion important biological responses. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine and School of Arts and Sciences have teased apart the ...

Mouse model provides new insight in to preeclampsia

12 hours ago

Worldwide, preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal deaths and preterm births. This serious pregnancy complication results in extremely high blood pressure and organ damage. The onset of preeclampsia is associated with ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tachyon8491
not rated yet Jul 24, 2013
It would have been nice if some of these new pictures had been presented in the article - the old saying, you know, "A picture is worth..."