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Health - April 1, 2013

Educating the Immune Cells

Educating the Immune Cells

Some biologists they would like to train the immune systems of their patients to tackle diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. Envision planning to immune cells to destroy tumors or if the stop attacks immune to healthy tissues.

Now a team of German scientists reported a method of trapping immune cells into tiny drops of water and exposes the cells to chemical signals that will teach them the difference between enemy and friend (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja311588c).

In the immune system, cells play primarily to prevent illness. Attack invaders such as viruses, help the immune memory for old infections, and prevent other immune cells to attack healthy tissue.

The Joachim P. Spatz and Ilia Platzman, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart in Germany, studying how T cells mature and trained for a particular purpose.

Many types of T cells reacted with the antigen presenting cells, which collect and exhibit pieces of proteins from viruses, bacteria and other intruders. Through these cellular responses, T cells learn to recognize threats and help the immune system to eliminate.

The immunologist believe they can cure diseases mimicking this process outside the body. For example, the physician could isolate the cells a cancer, to expose the cells to specific antigens in cancer, and then transplanted cells back into the patient, to direct the immune system to attack the tumor.

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Previous techniques have developed exponentially in T cells on flat, hard surfaces full of antigens. But some researchers believe that a more optimal approach would be to expose the T cells in an environment that mimics the three-dimensional curve and soft and moist environment of real cells.

The team of Max Planck Institute thought that they could create such an environment encompassing T cells in small water droplets in oil. The internal surface of these drops containing molecules surface tension produce a liquid and mechanically soft surface as the membrane of a cell. The group also has developed a way to anchor the molecules biomolecules surface tension to mimic the surface of antigen presenting cells.

The researchers make the drops mixing two streams of fluids in a microfluidic system: An oil molecules dissolving surfactant and a dissolution of a mixture of water based on the cells and the culture medium. When the two streams meet, droplets are formed by the T cells trapped inside bubbles molecules surface tension. The researchers add gold nanoparticles decorated with antigens on the side which is the water molecules of surfactant. The droplets can be small to 10 microns wide and hold up to six cells each.

In an experiment proving the theory, scientists coat the gold particles with fragments of proteins known to interact with T cells when he looked droplets under the microscope, they found that the cells were stuck to the inside surfaces of the droplets. Dropwise undecorated with gold nanoparticles, the cells were floating randomly around the bubbles.

The cells can survive within the drops for five days, then the Platzman believes that run out of food, as the volume of the droplets is extremely small – only a few picoliters. The researchers then plan to use these drops to expose T cells to antigens related illnesses.

The David A. Weitz, a physicist at the University Applied Physics Harvard, believes the ability of the method to control the environment of the area of ​​T cells and the chemical will help biologists better understand the training process of the cells. “It’s a clever combination of biological and non-biological systems,” he added.

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