Friday, July 26, 2013

Image post 7: spectacular skin cells

Another interesting image coming from UAB research captures the skin's ability to turn back the sea of microbes surrounding it.   

Pictured here is an outer cell layer of mouse skin. Humans have something similar. The tough, fibrous protein keratin, which gives structure to skin, has been dyed green, and T cells that watch for viruses, bacteria or parasites seeking to invade the body have been dyed orange.

These particular T cells, called gamma delta T cells, are unique in their spectacular appearance. They have been described as a missing link between the more primitive innate immune system, which is quickly, directly activated by foreign invaders, and the slower but more precise adaptive system, which must first be first primed by precise mechanisms before it can unleash clonal cell armies specific to the invader at hand.

Gamma delta T cells do a bit of both, and researchers seek to better understand how they defend the skin from invading microbes and help heal wounds. The image was generated in the lab of John Kearney, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Microbiology within the UAB School of Medicine.

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