September 14, 2011
Cancer killing cells have been caught on camera – in 3D and in more detail than ever before.
A team of British scientists used optical laser tweezers and a powerful microscope to analyse the inner workings of the cells.
It revealed, in the highest ever resolution, how white blood cells destroy diseased tissue using ‘deadly granules’.
Professor Daniel Davis, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Actually seeing what is going on in our bodies in such minute detail is a very big deal.
‘You cannot gain this knowledge any other way. You can read all about individual genes and molecules and what is supposed to happen but there is nothing as rewarding as this.
‘Just like astronomers are building bigger and better telescopes to peer into the depths of space, we are developing ever more powerful microscopes to view things at the quantum level.’
The study looked at a type of white blood cell, called a Natural Killer (NK) cell, that protects the body by identifying and killing diseased tissue.
It showed how white blood cells rearrange a scaffolding of proteins on the inside of its membrane to create a hole through which it delivers the deadly enzyme-filled granules to kill diseased tissue.
Prof Davis added: ‘NK cells are important in our immune response to viruses and rogue tissues like tumours.
‘They may also play a role in the outcome of bone marrow transplants by determining whether a recipient’s body rejects or accepts the donated tissue.’