Dendritic cells (green with blue nuclei) are immune cells that patrol the body, looking for microbial invaders. But rather than mounting an immune response themselves, they collect fragments (antigens) of the invading bug, head to the lymph nodes, and present the fragments to the immune system’s heavy hitters – the T cells and B cells. Because dendritic cells possess this ability to rally the immune troops, researchers are developing methods to use them to alert patient T cells to the presence of tumours, which are notoriously adept at evading immune detection. The general idea is to remove a patient's dendritic cells, provide them with antigens from the tumour (red and gold dots) and then return the cells to the patient. And to optimise this process, scientists have now enhanced the antigen uptake ability of dendritic cells, increasing the odds that they will successfully relay the message to T cells.
Written by Ruth Williams
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