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Mechanisms underlying tissue infiltration by immune cells

25 January 2022

Ready for Actin

Racing to the scene of an infection, immune cells like macrophages need to move through crowded tissues. How do they manage this without getting squished? Researchers studying macrophages in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) find a protein called FOS helps to strengthen each cell’s internal skeleton, creating a ‘tank-like’ shell of actin fibres which cushions the fragile nucleus as the cells push into the tissue. Here macrophages (highlighted in green) spread into (unseen here) embryos under a high-powered microscope – cells with impaired FOS (right) have a weaker protective shell and move more slowly. Humans have similar macrophages and, researchers believe, similar tank-building FOS genes. The new challenge is to support FOS in strengthening our immune cells when invading tumours as a form of cancer immunotherapy.

Written by John Ankers

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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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