Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

In 2017 we celebrated five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Ministry of Defence
23 April 2012

Ministry of Defence

T cells are the foot soldiers of our immune system, deployed on an endless tour of duty around our bodies destroying rogue cells and intruders. They are made in a two-step process that starts in our bone marrow and finishes in a small gland above our heart – the thymus – where they mature into battle-ready cells with specialised skills. It was thought that T cells (here dyed red) matured by a complicated sequence of chemical signals. However, recent findings demonstrate that only four proteins are required. Researchers discovered this by manipulating the chemical environment of a mouse embryo thymus (dyed blue and green), flicking genes on and off like light switches. The discovery prompts a paradigm shift, which could boost research into new drugs. Novel treatments could help rekindle immunity after cancer therapy, and even lead to the creation of artificial thymus glands.

Written by Tristan Farrow

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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