Cool Image: Training Cells to Devour Dying Neighbors

A healthy cell that has ingested dying cells.

A healthy cell (green) that has ingested dying cells (purple). Credit: Toru Komatsu, University of Tokyo.

In this image, a healthy cell (green) has engulfed a number of dying cells (purple) just as a predator might ingest wounded or dying prey. A team of researchers is hoping to use this same strategy at the cellular level to help treat infection, neurodegenerative diseases or cancer.

Our bodies routinely use a process called phagocytosis to rid themselves of unhealthy cells. Takanari Inoue Exit icon at Johns Hopkins University and collaborators at the University of Tokyo set out to investigate the molecular underpinnings of phagocytosis. Their goal was to endow laboratory-grown human cells with phagocytotic skills, namely the ability to recognize, swallow and digest dying cells. The scientists tried to do this by inserting into the cells two molecules known to play a role in phagocytosis.

The engineered cells accomplished the first two tasks—they recognized and surrounded dying cells. But they didn’t digest what they’d engulfed. Now the researchers are looking for a molecular trigger to get the engineered cells to complete this last task.

Eventually, the scientific team aims to build artificial cells that are programmed to target and destroy abnormal cells, such as those ravaged by bacteria, cancer or other diseases.

Learn more:
Johns Hopkins News Release Exit icon
How Cells Take Out the Trash Article from Inside Life Science
Cellular Suicide: An Essential Part of Life Article from Inside Life Science

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2 Replies to “Cool Image: Training Cells to Devour Dying Neighbors”

  1. this eating dead cells is wasting time and loot, the dead cells are same as
    a vaccination warding off similar family groups etc, — even if you figure
    out how to have your cells eat bad cells, there is an eventual error of
    they eating good cells, esp eating cells of the brain which most of us
    have in short supply anyway—— the underlying issue is not ridding
    the body of dead cells but better flushing out of waste from healthy cells
    which this sort of investigation might interfer with and cause blockage
    or worse of elimination from cells and intercells spaces, which still
    is not handled properly by the practicing docs, not even those in ER

  2. i guess i must add that the eating of dead cells is an ordinary task always done
    by the body when necessary otherwise not…… sometims it is better not to tinker
    with the normal process of the body, i.e. of the human body, because all tinkering
    is at a risk of big error which then might re-configure the dead cells into cells that
    eat the entire body, if human that is no good, if not human then let them do so
    in the research clinic of dust and cobwebs and dead end thinking

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