Scientists reveal in more detail than ever before how white blood cells kill diseased tissue using deadly granules, in research published today in PLoS Biology.
The researchers, from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, used 'optical' laser tweezers and a super-resolution microscope to see the inner workings of white blood cells at the highest resolution ever. The researchers describe how a white blood cell rearranges its scaffolding of actin proteins on the inside of its membrane, to create a hole through which it delivers deadly enzyme-filled granules to kill diseased tissue.
The study looked at a type of white blood cell called a Natural Killer (NK) cell that protects the body by identifying and killing diseased tissue.
"NK cells are important in our immune response to viruses and rogue tissues like tumours. They may also play a role in the outcome of bone marrow transplants by determining whether a recipient's body rejects or accepts the donated tissue," said Professor Daniel Davis, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, who led the research.
The scientists hope that learning more about how NK cells identify which tissues to kill and initiate the killing process could lead to better healthcare for some patients. Professor Davis said: "In the future, drugs that influence where and when NK cells kill could be included in medical treatments, such as the targeted killing of tumours. They may also prove useful in preventing the unwanted destruction by NK cells that may occur in transplant rejection or some auto-immune diseases."
The new visual resolution of NK cell action is a result of a novel imaging technique developed in collaboration with physicists at Imperial, and the use of a super high-resolution microscope at the University of Oxford. The researchers immobilised an NK cell and its target using a pair of 'optical' laser tweezers so that the microscope could ca
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Imperial College London