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Understanding more about how macrophages target cells for elimination

27 June 2021

Picky Eating

Cells of the immune system gobble invading particles like Pac-Man devouring berries. Macrophages wrap their outer layer around the target and engulf them (a process called phagocytosis). They avoid accidentally gobbling healthy or harmless cells by only targeting those that have been flagged with enough antibody markers by other immune cells. To understand how macrophages assess the number of markers, a new study used a technique called DNA origami to create synthetic receptor-target systems on the surfaces of macrophages and tiny synthetic beads. They found that macrophages (green) absorbed beads with more tightly clustered labels (orange), and showed increased activity of their receptors – crucial to initiating macrophage attack. Treatments for cancers, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative diseases rely on engaging these receptors, so understanding how antibody clustering and counting affects phagocytosis could help refine therapies or even develop new approaches with synthetic receptors for targeted defence.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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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