Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Megakaryocytes discovered to do more than supply the blood's platelets

15 August 2019

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Human blood is packed with all kinds of different cells that are made inside bone marrow, from oxygen-carrying red blood cells to infection-fighting immune cells. There are also small fragments called platelets, which are essential for blood clotting. Platelets form by budding off from much larger bone marrow cells known as megakaryocytes, which are more than 10 times larger than regular blood cells Until recently, it was thought that this platelet-making role was the only job for megakaryocytes. Using a new three-dimensional microscopy technique, researchers have now discovered that megakaryocytes (green) also act as biological ‘bouncers’, creating obstacles that control the movement of immune cells (grey/cyan) into blood vessels (red) inside the bone marrow. By tracking how different types of blood cells interact and then turning these images into computer simulations, scientists can now study the behaviour of blood cells in complex, real-life situations without the need for animal experiments.

Written by Kat Arney

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