Date Published: 24 July 2013
New images provide clearer indications of how white blood cells attack viral infections and tumours
Scientists based at Manchester University (England) have shown new images of the clearest known pictures of how white blood immune cells attack viral infections and tumours.
The images show how the immune cells, whose main pupose is to fight infections and cancer in the human body, change the arrangements of molecules on their surface (surface molecules), when activated by a type of protein found on viral-infected or tumour cells.
The research revealed that 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 Daniel Davis lead the investigation into the immune cells and said that the work could provide important clues for tackling disease.
Professor Davis 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 cell proteins 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."
Prior to this work the limitations of light microscopy prevented a clearer understanding of how immune cells detect other cells as being diseased or healthy.
The team at Manchester University used high quality, super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to view the cells in blood samples in their laboratory to create the still images. Their reseach results including the new images have recently been published in the journal Science Signalling.
University, England (UK)