JERUSALEM, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers have successfully replicated under laboratory conditions the interaction between lymphocytes and "sick" cells, as reported Thursday by the southern Ben-Gurion University.
The team has been able to quantify the mechanism by which lymphocytes distinguish between sick cells and healthy ones.
The researchers showed that by introducing lymphocytes to an artificially-created laboratory "skin of target cells" in the form of a dense array of nanowires, they were able to observe the lymphocytes' mechanical and chemical reactions to the cells.
The researchers developed a unique chemical method to coat the nanowires with antigen molecules - specific markers on the surface of ill cells - thus making the artificial cell skin chemically identical to that of real ill cells.
The team introduced the lymphocytes to the artificial cells and found that the lymphocytes grabbed the nanowires and bent them towards the middle of the cell.
Surprisingly, upon bending of the nanowires, the cells secreted large amounts of a toxic material they use for killing viral and tumorous cells in human body.
In addition, it was found that the force applied by lymphocytes on the target cell is extremely small, scaled in units of piconewton (one-trillionth of a Newton).
The discovery is an important step for immunotherapy research, which has been a focus of cancer treatment research in recent years.