Killer T Cell: The Cancer Assassin

Killer T Cell: The Cancer Assassin


Inside all of us lurks a serial killer, a
killer whose primary function is to kill and then kill again. These are cytotoxic
T cells a specialised member of our white blood cells. They patrol our bodies
identifying and destroying virally infected and cancer cells and they do so
with remarkable precision and efficiency. There are about five million T Cells and
a teaspoon of our blood engaged in the ferocious and unrelenting battle to keep
us healthy. These amorphous blobs move around
quite rapidly pushing out there leading edge and probing their environment as
they go. When a cytotoxic T cell finds a cancer
cell, membrane protrusions rapidly explore the surface of the cell, checking for the tell-tale signs of
cancer. They kill their targets using poisonous proteins visible here in red these cytotoxic granules move down
special pathways in the cell called microtubules to the interface
between the T Cell in the cancer cell. The T cell punctures the surface of the
cancer cell and delivers its deadly cytotoxins. This is very important in our
bodies where cells are packed together as it focuses the lethal hit on the
target and minimizes collateral damage to the neighbouring healthy cells. The fate of the cancer cell is sealed.
The T cell then moves on hungry to find another victim.