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New nano device detects immune system cell signaling
Date:9/3/2008

nce of the body that it conducts requires extensive communication between dozens of different kinds of immune cells."

The reason for this is that the dendritic cells, T-cells and B-cells in the immune system, which tend to concentrate in the lymph nodes spread throughout the body, function as individual, unattached cells. If dendritic cells detect invaders in the body, they rapidly migrate to lymph nodes and have to find the appropriate T-cells to alert them. But how dendritic cells attract the right T-cells among millions of cells within the lymph nodes remains an immunological puzzle.

Scientists have been trying to develop systems for single-cell analysis for a number of years. Because of the difficulty of keeping normal cells alive, they have been forced to use cells that have been genetically altered so they can be cultured indefinitely. Although the alteration "immortalizes" the cells, it also significantly limits their usefulness. The MTN is the first system that can monitor biochemical changes in large numbers of normal or primary cells at the single-cell level for prolonged periods, Unutmaz says.

The new device consists of a series of hair-sized channels molded in a special kind of plastic that is glued onto the bottom of a glass microscope coverslip. A shoebox-sized pump pushes fluid (normally the media used to culture cells) through one channel that opens up into a chamber filled with hundreds of tiny, three-sided wells small enough to trap individual cells. When cells are injected upstream, they are passively trapped in the wells and are held there solely by the fluid flowing out even smaller holes in the well bottoms. By precisely controlling the flow rate, the researchers can keep normal cells alive for longer than 24 hours.

The researchers monitor the cells with a digital camera attached to a standard microscope, typically snapping images every 30 seconds. They have written software that allows them to analyze the
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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