The combatants are tiny – one tenth of the width of a human hair – but the stakes could not be higher, as a human immune ‘T Cell’ battles against a cancer cell.
The video shows how our immune systems use assassin cells known as ‘cytotoxic T cells’ to fight against invaders such as cancer cells.
Cytotoxic T cells are just 10 microns in length: approximately one-tenth the width of a human hair.
The original footage shown was made by Alex Ritter, a PhD student, in the laboratory of Professor Gillian Griffiths at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research.
Professor Griffiths says: ‘Cells of the immune system protect the body against pathogens. If cells in our bodies are infected by viruses, or become cancerous, then killer cells of the immune system identify and destroy the affected cells.
‘Cytotoxic T cells are very precise and efficient killers. They are able to destroy infected or cancerous cells, without destroying healthy cells surrounding them.
Griffiths’ lab is researching how to control these ‘hunter killer’ cells.
‘This will allow us to find ways to improve cancer therapies, and ameliorate autoimmune diseases caused when killer cells run amok and attack healthy cells in our bodies.’