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HELPER CELLS APTLY NAMED IN BATTLE WITH INVADING PATHOGENS

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By tracking the previously unknown movements of a set of specialized cells, Whitehead Institute scientists are shedding new light on how the immune system mounts a successful defense against hostile, ever-changing invaders.

Central to the immune response is the activity inside structures known as germinal centers (GCs), which form in the body’s lymph nodes upon detection of a foreign virus or bacteria. Within the GCs, populations of antibody-producing B cells move through continual cycles of mutation in an effort to generate antibodies perfectly suited to bind and neutralize the harmful invader. Because the production of such high-affinity antibodies requires diversity, multiple GCs arise in a single lymph node, with each GC housing an exclusive population of B cells.

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