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Immune System Breadcrumbs

September 10, 2015

Cells in the immune system follow chemical “breadcrumbs” to find their way to an infection site.



Breadcrumbs in the immune system. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Following an injury or infection, immune cells called T cells work to destroy foreign invaders. But how do they know where in the body to go? In the journal Science, University of Rochester immunologist Minsoo Kim reports that other immune cells, called neutrophils, arrive at the infection site first, leaving behind them a trail of chemicals for T cells to follow.  

MINSOO KIM (University of Rochester):

 It’s like “Hansel and Gretel”. They leave breadcrumbs so they can find their way back, but in this case neutrophils leave these particles so they can communicate with other immune cells such as T cells.


In mice lacking neutrophils, fewer T cells made it to the infection site and the immune system struggled to clear a virus. The research suggests increasing the neutrophil response will recruit T cells faster and result in better treatments. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.