Sydney, Australia - Using a super-resolution fluorescent microscope, Australian medical scientists are a step closer to understanding why and how human immune cells decide to activate or not, thus enabling or preventing disease taking hold in the body.
Professor Katharina Gaus and her team at the Centre for Vascular Research based at UNSW's Lowy Cancer Research Centre used some of the most advanced super-resolution optical microscope technology available anywhere in the world to see changes in individual proteins in T-cells – the workhorse of our immune system.
"Every day, every second, our immune cells make decisions to activate or not activate," Professor Gaus says. "Every time they make a decision, the outcome is life or death."
In a paper published in Nature Immunology, Professor Gaus and her team show, for the first time, how the molecule protein 'kinase' is distributed across membranes – opening and closing like the Pacman in the 1980s computer game.
"The kinase we examined is called Lck and is essential for the activation of T-cells but is also involved in many other cell signalling processes," Professor Gaus says. "Understanding how kinase activity is controlled is the key to knowing what goes wrong in many diseases including immune disorders and cancer."
The super-resolution microscope has allowed the researchers to watch this dynamic opening and closing process.
There are only half a dozen of the super-resolution microscopes in use around the world, one of which is at UNSW.
The technology allows the researchers to light up particular molecules and proteins to pinpoint their precise localisation. The process highlights the proteins' position and function, enabling a super-resolution image of the activity to be captured.
"The link between intra-molecular rearrangements to surface patterning of signalling molecules is important because it can explain how engagement of a few receptors can trigger an activation response," the researchers say in their paper.
### Further findings from Professor Gaus and her team appear this week in the journal Nature Communications.
University of New South Wales: http://www.unsw.edu.au
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Claims that Ai Hin was faking pregnancy to get better treatment have been debunked by leading panda expert
The recent release of Susan Greenfields new book and the film Lucy, both of which are dependent on tired misconceptions or dubious theories about the brain, suggest one worrying conclusion: we are running out of myths about the brain. So here are some new ones, to keep things mysterious
These are the siphonophores, some 180 known species of gelatinous strings that can grow to 100 feet long, making them some of the longest critters on the planet. But instead of growing as a single body like virtually every other animal, siphonophores clone themselves thousands of times over into half a dozen different types of specialized cloned bodies, all strung together to work as a team---a very deadly team at that.
Researchers who study memory have had a thrilling couple of years. Some have erased memories in people with electroshock therapy, for example. Others have figured out, in mice, how to create false memories and even turn bad memories into good ones.
Hunting bats don't just listen out for male frogs' mating calls: they can also use echolocation to detect when the frogs inflate their throat sacs
A crèche of 30 dinosaur infants looked over by an older animal shows that even terrible lizards needed a night away from the kids
Families have identifiable collections of microbes that travel with them. It can take just 24 hours for the microbes to take over a new house
When rabbits were domesticated, around 100 regions of their genome changed to make them less fearful, but the variations are not fixed
Scientists never understood what became of the Paleo-Eskimos who once peopled the north. Now they know—and there's new reason to miss them
NOAA whittles down initial list of 66 species to be covered by Endangered Species Act