Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Clearest New Pictures of Immune Cells

Clearest New Pictures of Immune
July 23, 2013 — 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
tumour cells.
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
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
diseased cells. 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 light
microscopy have prevented a clear
understanding of how immune cells
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.

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