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Local Knowledge

White blood cells called unconventional T cells continuously travel from tissues to local lymph nodes to aid the immune response

11 November 2022

Local Knowledge

To filter out waste and defend us from infection, hundreds of small glands, the lymph nodes, form a protective network around the body. Connected to each other and other tissues by the lymphatic system, they keep tabs on organ health thanks to dendritic cells, travelling immune cells that carry pathogens or products of their activity up to the lymph nodes. Information also comes from unconventional T cells (UTCs), white blood cells so called because they recognise unusual components of pathogens, such as lipids or small molecules. Researchers recently found that UTCs (pictured in a lymph node, in green) continuously migrate from tissues to their local nodes, forming distinct populations in nodes connected to different organs, like the lungs and gut. This local organisation helps the immune system to mount an appropriate response in the right location, and could inspire more effective vaccine strategies, that boost immunity where most needed.

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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