Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Immune cells' internal tent-pole-like structures aid their ability to engulf molecules

11 October 2018

Tent Pole Patrol

A cutting-edge microscope technique has shown in exquisite detail that the immune cells which patrol our bodies have miniature, tent-like structures on their surface. Slung between the tent poles are membranes that allow the moving cells, called macrophages, to gulp in fluid. Each gulp is sampled for possible sources of infection and, if any sign of bacteria, virus or cancer is detected, the macrophage triggers an immune response. The macrophages in this video have been exposed to a molecule commonly found on bacteria. Their activity was recorded with lattice light-sheet microscopy, which uses a laser to acquire 3D images with great speed and precision, while causing minimal damage to the cells. This advanced technique could revolutionise our understanding of cell behaviour. Already, it’s known that cancer cells use tent poles to engulf nutrients to sustain their growth. Targeting the tents with drugs could help to block cancer cell survival.

Written by Deborah Oakley

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