Imperial College London has found out that immune cells grab onto dangerous cells with a bungee-like nanontube. The study finds that natural killer, or NK cells use extreme sports to murder cells that would otherwise be clear to make a break for it.
NK cells are every human’s first line of defence against malicious cells full of bacteria or viruses. The new findings are thought to lead to new drugs which may be able to harness the natural ability to fight against diseases. Previously to the report, it was known that NK cells can pwn dangerous cells by attaching themselves to them, forming a connection called an immune synapse, before passing on toxic molecules into the getaway buggers.
This is the first test of its kind which proves that natural killer cells can in a sense chase after dodgy cells by lassoing them with the bungee-like tube, called a membrane nanotube. Then the cells can either recoil for direct contact, or headshot them from a distance. The NK cells managed to kill their targets from a distance in 75 percent of cases if the nanotube was attached, compared to just 25% if it was cut.
The study was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Association pour la recherce sur le cancer, or ARC.