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24 June 2015

Immunity Illuminated

Seeing is believing, and visualising the spread of disease is also crucial to treating it effectively. To detect and monitor cancer, we rely primarily on invasive methods such as blood samples and biopsies, but a new technique could revolutionise our approach. As tumours are often surrounded by cells of the immune system, a team of researchers developed a means of viewing the distribution of these cells in live animals; unexpected patterns reveal the size and location of cancerous tissues. This video demonstrates the effectiveness of their technique – highlighted areas pick out a symmetric distribution of lymph nodes in a mouse’s chest and neck, where immune cells are expected to be seen, but also a diffuse area behind one shoulder, where cancerous cells were previously injected. Tracking tumours non-invasively and over a broad area offers a host of possibilities for improved diagnosis, as well as for measuring the impact of treatments.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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