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Pores open the door to death
Date:9/16/2008

This press release is available in German.

Our body is almost constantly being threatened by pathogens and cancerous cells that appear out of the blue. But the body puts up a fight: specialized cells in the immune system smuggle small molecules (granzymes) into cancer cells and those body cells that have fallen prey to viruses. The molecules then trigger off the diseased cells' built-in suicide program. There are two possible ways in which the granzymes gain entry into the cells under attack. Despite more than twenty years of research, however, it remained unclear as to which of these pathways is used to smuggle the lethal amount of granzymes into a cell. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology have now shown that minute pores on the cell surface open the door to the granzymes for a short period of time. These results provide new prospects for improved methods of treatment of chronic virus infections and cancer. (PNAS, 2. September 2008)

During our day-to-day life, we are rarely aware of the battles taking place in our own bodies. The body is almost always in a state of war against countless pathogens. And so, with every litre of blood that is pumped through our bodies, up to five billion white blood cells are sent out on patrol. Some of these cells react to pathogens by producing antibodies specially designed to attack precisely those pathogens that have been discovered. At the same time, they develop memory cells which recognize these pathogens immediately, should they attack anew.

In addition to these tacticians, a second group of white blood cells takes up arms against the enemy without further hesitation. The group consists of T-cells and killer cells that specialize in singling out body cells that have already been infected by viruses and tumor cells - swift action is therefore essential. However, these attack
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Contact: Dr. Stefanie Merker
merker@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3514
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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