Saturday, December 3, 2016
This image shows two immune cells known as neutrophils, magnified hundreds of times with a scanning electron microscope. First discovered more than a hundred years ago, they act as the first line of defense in the body, pumping out anti-microbial chemicals and swallowing up bacteria and viruses.
But in 2004, high-powered microscopes revealed a third mode of attack: casting out a deadly net of DNA and protein fibres – shown spewing from the right-hand cell in this image – that catches and disarms invading bugs. Formally known as neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), they form localized ‘cages’ that focus germ-fighting power in a small area and avoid causing damage to neighbouring healthy cells.
Although this is a powerful infection-beating mechanism, it’s not so good for the neutrophil. Because forming a NET requires the cell to throw out all its DNA – containing all the genetic instructions for life – it dies in the process.
This image is a finalist in the International Images for Science 2016 exhibition, organised by the Royal Photographic Society and supported by Siemens as part of the Curiosity Projecthttps://rps-science.org/events/International-Images-for-Science/finalists/4965/
Image by Stavros Giaglis
Story via BPoD