Natural Born Killers: Activating the Immune System to Fight Disease

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Allison Demas, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher, Abigail Lytton-Jean, Galit Alter, Sangeeta Bhatia

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Allison Demas, David Mankus, Margaret Bisher, Abigail Lytton-Jean, Galit Alter, Sangeeta Bhatia
Koch Institute at MIT and Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard

Special operatives and frontline defenders against infection and disease, natural killer (NK) cells are the ninjas of the immune system. The Bhatia and Alter Labs seek to visualize the process of activation and attack.

The NK cell seen here has been deposited on a glass slide alongside parasites and therapeutic antibodies. Preparing for battle, its surface transforms from smooth to bumpy and protrusions start to emerge. Malaria is the enemy this time, but similar approaches are also being tested against cancer.

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Allison Demas shares the story behind her image at the exhibit opening ceremony on March 20, 2019.