Micron plays key role in revealing cancer-killing cells' action

A state-of-the-art, super-resolution microscope system based in the department in the Micron Advanced Imaging Unit has captured how white blood cells known as natural killer cells kill diseased tissue, in greater detail than ever before.

'OMX' Optical Microscope, eXperimental

'OMX' Optical Microscope, eXperimental

The researchers, from Imperial College London and the Biochemistry department, say that the study could help in the development of medical treatments that target certain diseases, including tumours.

Natural Killer (NK) cells are important in our immune response to viruses and rogue tissues like tumours, and have been shown to identify and kill these tissues. The research team used the OMX microscope system based at Micron to see the inner workings of NK cells. They showed how NK cells rearrange their internal protein scaffolding on the inside of the cell membrane to create a hole through which they deliver deadly enzyme-filled granules to kill diseased tissue.

Professor Ilan Davis in the department, whose group applies this technology to understand how RNA molecules are sorted and moved around the cell during development, said: 'Our microscope has given us unprecendented views inside living NK cells, capturing a super-resolution 3D image of the cell structures at twice the normal resolution of conventional light microscopy.'

The research, which is published in PLoS Biology, was led by Professor Daniel Davis from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London.

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