Researchers capture first-ever image of immune cells fighting invading cells

First ever image captured of immune cells fighting invading cells
First ever image captured of immune cells fighting invading cells | Courtesy of biothreatsmitre.org
Researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Doherty Institute recently captured the world’s first pictures of immune cells fighting invading cells.

Scientists can use this information to create vaccines that are able to recruit the immune system’s most efficient killer cells to help the body fight against invaders.

The team of researchers in Melbourne used the most advanced microscopy and technology to capture these pictures. The images show three essential kinds of immune cells (helper T cells, killer T cells and dendritic cells) join together to eliminate herpes simplex virus. All three of these cells are important to the immune system, but scientists have yet to discover how these organisms organize their attacks.

Using their advanced technology, the researchers magnified the images 400 times, making the cells, which are approximately one-quarter the width of the average human hair, more visible.

"This is the first time that we can see all of these immune cells at once responding to an infection," Dr. Scott Mueller, from the University of Melbourne, said. "Dendritic cells, killer T cells and helper T cells need to interact to start an immune response, but we don't know how and when they provide signals to each other. Our images reveal the dynamic choreograph they perform to swap signals.”

Mueller is hopeful that this new information will help researchers understand how the immune system works, and how they can use that to help create vaccines.

"We don't yet know how to make good vaccines against many diseases, but with this new knowledge, we may be able to direct vaccines in new, more targeted ways,” Dr. Mueller said. "We are basically in the dark when it comes to what happens in the immune system. We know if you have an infection, immune cells are activated to protect you against getting the infection again. But we really don't know much about the complex dance that happens between cells.”

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University of Melbourne

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