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Scientists Guide Immune Cells with Light and Microparticles

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A team led by Yale University scientists has developed a new approach to studying how immune cells chase down bacteria in our bodies. Their findings are described in the November 15 issue of Nature Methods Advanced Online Publication.

When bacteria enter our bodies they secrete molecules, leaving behind chemical trails as they move through our system. It has been known for some time that immune cells follow these trails in order to hunt the bacteria. However, studying exactly how immune cells process these chemical signals has been challenging.

Now a team of scientists – led by Eric Dufresne, the John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Holger Kress, a postdoctoral associate in the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science – has developed a way to create artificial chemical trails that can be shaped in three dimensions over time. By controlling the chemical trails, the team was able to control the movements of neutrophils – immune cells in the blood – and study how they are able to respond to these signals.
 
 

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