Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Brave Blood
03 November 2012

Brave Blood

Like a fast-flowing river, the bloodstream carries white blood cells – the first responders of our immune system, also called leucocytes – to areas of infection in the body. This high-speed journey is fraught with danger. To prevent the currents from washing the leucocytes away once they arrive, they do what any salty sea dog would – drop their anchors. The leucocytes pictured here (the largest of which is 2,000 times smaller than a Fisherman’s Friend) were scattered over a man-made surface similar to the lining of a blood vessel and then blasted with fast-flowing liquid to simulate the bloodstream. Prickly anchors developed immediately to tether the base of the cell to the vessel-like floor. Only after a dramatic voyage inside our blood vessels can the job of the leucocytes really begin, penetrating through the vessel lining on a mission to tackle a nearby infection.

Written by John Ankers

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