Friday, February 10, 2012

Killer T-cell surrounds cancer in targeted attack

Caitlin Stier, video intern

On a mission to search and destroy cancer, an immune system T-cell launches its attack on a tumour cell in a new time-lapse movie. Captured by graduate student Alex Ritter, a member of Gillian Griffiths' team at the University of Cambridge, the video reveals how the T-cell's centrosome, shown in red, is used to hone in on a cancer cell so that it can accurately transfer toxic enzymes.
Typically the centrosome acts as a transit hub, sending goods out to cells through a protein scaffolding. But in this case, it plays a much more active role. "Killer T-cells are incredibly potent," says Griffiths. "You have to focus that secretion incredibly accurately and we found that the centrosome goes right up to the membrane at the point where the secretion is delivered to make that happen."
The team is studying this process by looking at patients with genetic disorders that disrupt centrosome function. The work could help researchers identify ways to exploit our natural immunity to target cancer, as well as to alleviate immune disorders where errant T-cells destroy healthy tissue.
If you liked this video, watch malaria invade a blood cell or see the world's fastest cells race.

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