Meet the Killer in You

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Faculty
By: 

Prof. Ofer Mandelboim

Faculty Member , Immunology and Cancer Research, IMRIC
Professor, Immunology and Cancer Research, Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine


  

There's a killer inside your body. In fact, there's a whole series of killers. But don't be alarmed. They're part of your immune system. In fact, they are the most versatile, powerful weapon in your body's immunological arsenal. Their objective: to search and destroy any foreign bodies that might invade your body. And they do this without special prompting or activation.

Natural Killer (NK) cells were first discovered in the '70s by a Swedish professor who was researching how the body fights tumours. During his research, he discovered that certain cells attacked the tumour without being sensitized towards them. Initially thought of as an anomaly, it was soon discovered that cells such as these were found throughout the body and were active across a wide spectrum of infectious diseases. Although we now know that they do not possess all the qualities researchers once thought they had, their rapid attack patterns have caused the 'natural' label to stick.

NK cells are the offensive line of our defence system, protecting the body from infection by destroying the invader on the cellular level. They play a major role in the rejection of tumours and infected cells because they seek and attack these infected cells, releasing small amounts of protein that effectively break down the cells in a process called apoptosis.

Natural killers, indeed. 

How Natural Killer cells work

 How natural Killer cells work

Our First year

NK cell & cell infected with HIVOur first year of collaboration has shown significant progress with research that has taken us all over the world. We've already discovered a probable ethnic component related to avian flu. Cells collected from different groups will be characterized and compared for their ability to generate memory immune cells and their NK cell function. We are also getting closer to understanding what makes certain individuals resistant to the HIV virus, which brings us one step closer to finding a vaccine for AIDS. These are exciting times, and we are very excited to be a part of it all.

For further reading, visit: http://www.jimmunol.org/content/174/11/6692.abstract.