Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Immune Immolation
24 January 2014

Immune Immolation

Here, HIV particles (coloured yellow) are seen infecting a human T cell. HIV destroys essential immune cells including CD4 T cells – which mobilise other immune cells – thereby crippling the body’s defences. Now, researchers have revealed the molecular chain of events that results in the death of these first responders. The vast majority of CD4 T cells don’t get fully infected by HIV but die anyway. It turns out that this is because the cells respond to the presence of fragments of viral DNA by initiating pyroptosis – a fiercely inflammatory form of cell suicide that lures more CD4 T cells, creating a vicious cycle that devastates the immune system. Initiation of pyroptosis depends on the activation of a protein called caspase-1. Inhibiting this protein in cells in the lab with an existing drug suppresses cell death and inflammation, raising the possibility of new therapies that target the patient’s immune response.

Written by Daniel Cossins

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

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.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.