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05 February 2018

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Dendritic cells (green with blue nuclei) are immune cells that patrol the body, looking for microbial invaders. But rather than mounting an immune response themselves, they collect fragments (antigens) of the invading bug, head to the lymph nodes, and present the fragments to the immune system’s heavy hitters – the T cells and B cells. Because dendritic cells possess this ability to rally the immune troops, researchers are developing methods to use them to alert patient T cells to the presence of tumours, which are notoriously adept at evading immune detection. The general idea is to remove a patient's dendritic cells, provide them with antigens from the tumour (red and gold dots) and then return the cells to the patient. And to optimise this process, scientists have now enhanced the antigen uptake ability of dendritic cells, increasing the odds that they will successfully relay the message to T cells.

Written by Ruth Williams

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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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