Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Track a Killer

Tracking T cells in action in mice genetically modified to bear fluorescent cytotoxic granules

18 September 2020

Track a Killer

Killer T cells are important disease-fighting members of the immune system. Experiments in the lab show how they rapidly kill one cell after the other with a unique cocktail of chemicals fired out in deadly packages called cytotoxic granules. But like an athlete that shines in training but chokes in the big games, T cells seem to work much more slowly in their natural environment. To understand how they function in the body, researchers genetically modified mice to add a fluorescent tag (green, with the structures that support T cells labelled red) onto a protein in the granules, and used microscopy to observe the T cells in action as they fought off invaders. Getting a glimpse at this process could answer questions about how they interact with other cells in the body, and might provide clues on how to enhance their behaviour to better tackle threats like cancer and viruses.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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