A number of types of immune cells communicate via a naturally occurring network of nanotubes, investigators report today in this month'sImmunity. These findings suggest that nanotubes could serve as a third form of intercellular communication, distinct from gap junctions and synapses, and faster than secreted chemical signals alone, co-author Simon Watkins at the Center for Biologic Imaging at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine told The Scientist.

"We think the cells make these connections so that they can work in a coordinated fashion to collect antigens from pathogens rather than working as individuals. This would seem to make the likelihood of successful delivery of the antigen to a distant lymph node much more likely," Watkins said in an email.

These findings could serve as a "good solution" for the "puzzles" plaguing many different fields in research, said Hans-Hermann Gerdes at the University of Bergen in Norway,...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?