This is what it looks like when cancer gets smacked down by a T cell

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This incredible video captures a showdown between cancer cells and the T cells that act as the shock troops for your immune system. That's right - you're actually watching a T cell defeat cancer.

This was shot by University of Cambridge medical researcher Alex Ritter, and is 92 times faster than real time. So the actual smackdown would take quite a bit longer if it were going on in your bloodstream right now. Ritter works in Gillian Griffiths' lab at Cambridge's Institute for Medical Research, where scientists are trying to figure out how to enhance our bodies' natural abilities to stop cancer before it starts.


Griffiths explains:

Cells of the immune system protect the body against pathogens. If cells in our bodies are infected by viruses, or become cancerous, then killer cells of the immune system identify and destroy the affected cells. Cytotoxic T cells are very precise and efficient killers. They are able to destroy infected or cancerous cells, without destroying healthy cells surrounding them. By understanding how this works, we can develop ways to control killer cells. This will allow us to find ways to improve cancer therapies, and ameliorate autoimmune diseases caused when killer cells run amok and attack healthy cells in our bodies.


These images were acquired using an Andor Revolution spinning disk system with an Olympus microscope, and the research was funded in part by NIH and the Wellcome Trust.

Music by Intercontinental Music Lab

This is the sixth in a series of videos called Under the Microscope, which io9 is posting in partnership with scientists at University of Cambridge. Under the Microscope is a collection of videos that capture glimpses of the natural and artificial world in stunning close-up. They will be released every Monday and Thursday for the next couple of months, and you can see the whole series here.