To make T-lymphocytes to attack the cancer cell, it is necessary a little pressure.

Three of T-lymphocytes surrounding the cancer cell. (Photo: NICHD /

One of the tasks of immune T-lymphocytes to destroy cancer cells. The immune system finds them by their characteristic molecular features: on the membranes of malignant cells have special proteins that act on receptors on T-lymphocytes. Sensing a signal from a receptor, the lymphocyte is activated and begins to operate, providing different signals to other immune cells and toxic substances that kill cancer.

However, if we observe T-lymphocytes in the laboratory, it may seem that they are extremely lazy. If the lymphocyte is faced with a “cancer” molecule (i.e. protein, characteristic of cancer cells), it does nothing. And if he faced with two cancer molecules, they also did not make it. And with three, four, etc . To T-lymphocytes began the hunt for cancer cells, you need to stuck to not less than several hundred, perhaps several thousand “cancer” proteins.

But in reality, that is, in the body, anything can happen otherwise. Researchers from Vanderbilt University wrote in his article in PNASthat T-lymphocytes can Wake up and one or two tumor signals – you only need slight pressure on the immune cells. Pressure in the truest sense – lymphocyte should feel a mechanical force on the membrane.

Matthew lang (Matthew Lang) and his colleagues used nanosilica covered the “cancer” molecules – they were placed on the cells and watch what happens. If the ball was lying just like that, nothing happened: the lymphocyte had more contacts “cancer” of molecules to receptors. But if the ball held by laser tweezers, lightly crushed, the immune cell quickly woke up.

Gradually brushing off nanosilica proteins intended for receptors, the authors found that activation of lymphocytes is sufficient to receptor browseinterval only two cancer molecules, the force with which pressed on the ball, was equal only to 10 piconewton.

In other words, molecular changes occurring under the action of mechanical force, make the T cells more susceptible to cancer signals. In the body, probably, all that happens is there are cells constantly feel mechanical impact, floating in the current of liquid or squeezing through some fabric.

It is known that the immune system is not always with due diligence destroys suspicious cells, and maybe if we can find a way to influence mechanosensory system of lymphocytes, we will be able to increase their activity to the desired level.