Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists use super microscope to pinpoint body’s immunity 'switch'

Date:
June 7, 2011
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
Using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, medical scientists have been able for the first time to see the inner workings of T-cells, the front-line troops that alert our immune system to go on the defensive against germs and other invaders in our bloodstream. The discovery overturns prevailing understanding, identifying the exact molecular "switch" that spurs T-cells into action -- a breakthrough that could lead to treatments for a range of conditions from autoimmune diseases to cancer.

Image of a single activated T cell -- From left to right: First, a conventional blurry image, where subcellular structures cannot be identified. Then, a super-resolution single molecule image with each white dot being exactly one protein. Next, an algorithm is applied to identify protein clusters (color indicates degree of cluster). Finally, identification of T cell signalling complexes, which can now be quantified.
Credit: Image courtesy of Dr. Katharina Gaus, Centre for Vascular Research, University of New South Wales

Using the only microscope of its kind in Australia, medical scientists have been able for the first time to see the inner workings of T-cells, the front-line troops that alert our immune system to go on the defensive against germs and other invaders in our bloodstream.

The discovery overturns prevailing understanding, identifying the exact molecular 'switch' that spurs T-cells into action -- a breakthrough that could lead to treatments for a range of conditions from auto-immune diseases to cancer.

The findings, by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), are reported in the journal Nature Immunology.

Studying a cell protein important in early immune response, the researchers led by Associate Professor Katharina Gaus from UNSW's Centre for Vascular Research at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, used Australia's only microscope capable of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to image the protein molecule-by-molecule to reveal the immunity 'switch'.

The technology is a major breakthrough for science, Dr Gaus said. Currently there are only half a dozen of the 'super' microscopes in use around the world.

"Previously you could see T-cells under a microscope but you couldn't see what their individual molecules were doing," Dr Gaus said.

Using the new microscope the scientists were able to image molecules as small as 10 nanometres. Dr Gaus said that what the team found overturns the existing understanding of T-cell activation.

"Previously it was thought that T-cell signalling was initiated at the cell surface in molecular clusters that formed around the activated receptor.

"In fact, what happens is that small membrane-enclosed sacks called vesicles inside the cell travel to the receptor, pick up the signal and then leave again," she said.

Dr Gaus said the discovery explained how the immune response could occur so quickly.

"There is this rolling amplification. The signalling station is like a docking port or an airport with vesicles like planes landing and taking off. The process allows a few receptors to activate a cell and then trigger the entire immune response," she said.

PhD candidate David Williamson, whose research formed the basis of the paper, said the discovery showed what could be achieved with the new generation of super-resolution fluorescence microscopes.

"In conventional microscopy, all the target molecules are lit up at once and individual molecules become lost amongst their neighbours -- it's like trying to follow a conversation in a crowd where everyone is talking at once.

"With our microscope we can make the target molecules light up one at a time and precisely determine their location while their neighbours remain dark. This 'role call' of all the target molecules means we can then build a 'super resolution' image of the sample," he said.

The next step was to pinpoint other key proteins to get a complete picture of T-cell activity and to extend the microscope to capture 3-D images with the same unprecedented resolution.

"Being able to see the behaviour and function of individual molecules in a live cell is the equivalent of seeing atoms for the first time. It could change the whole concept of molecular and cell biology," Mr Williamson said.

Other research team members were physicist Dr Dylan Owen, cell biologists Dr Jérémie Rossy and Dr Astrid Magenau, from the Centre for Vascular Research, and Professor Justin Gooding and Matthias Wehrmann, from UNSW's School of Chemistry and the Australian Centre for Nanomedicine. The research was supported by funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Human Frontier Science Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David J Williamson, Dylan M Owen, Jérémie Rossy, Astrid Magenau, Matthias Wehrmann, J Justin Gooding, Katharina Gaus. Pre-existing clusters of the adaptor Lat do not participate in early T cell signaling events. Nature Immunology, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ni.2049

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Scientists use super microscope to pinpoint body’s immunity 'switch'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110605132429.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2011, June 7). Scientists use super microscope to pinpoint body’s immunity 'switch'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110605132429.htm
University of New South Wales. "Scientists use super microscope to pinpoint body’s immunity 'switch'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110605132429.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan

Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — A 111-year-old Japanese was certified as the world's oldest man by Guinness World Records on Wednesday. Sakari Momoi, a native of Fukushima in northern Japan, was given a certificate at a hospital in Tokyo. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Residents of Sierra Leone's capital voice their fears as the Ebola virus sweeps through west Africa. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Herman Goldman has worked at the same lighting store for almost 75 years. Find out his secrets to a happy, productive life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins