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
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In the article on the discovery of dinosaurs (They’re back, Review, 6 June) you state: “In Sussex, a local doctor uncovered fragmentary remains of what appeared to be two more species of colossal extinct land reptiles.” You grossly underplay the contribution of Lewes-born Gideon Mantell, geologist and palaeontologist, author and diarist, friend to princes and international scholars as well as local doctor. Mantell not only discovered (aided by his wife) the first remains of the iguanodon in 1824 but named it – as it resembled the tooth of an iguana. This was the first known land dinosaur, Mary Anning having identified the first sea-living dinosaur.Mantell went on to put together more pieces of the jigsaw with extra fossil discoveries. In contrast to Richard Owen, whose models form the basis for the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, Mantell stated correctly that iguanodon would have walked on their back legs, using their forearms to fight or gather food. He did, however, attribute the thumb spike to a nose horn though later corrected this assumption. The Natural History Museum has a display on Gideon and his wife Mary’s contribution as well as the large “Mantell-piece” of Iguanodon fossils that he had on show in his museum in Brighton. He sold it, along with many more priceless items, to the British Museum in 1838. Gideon Mantell’s reputation deserves better than your throwaway remark. Debby MatthewsLewes, East Sussex Continue reading...
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