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Hu Group makes surprise discovery on dendritic cell networks.

The Hu Group has found that dentritic cells form a long network to root out antigens.

Dendritic cells (DCs) are sentinels of the immune system — they capture, escort, and present foreign invaders, known as antigens, to mediate the immune response. Vaccines rely on DCs to induce cellular immunity, including our recent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Maximizing the vaccine delivery to DCs has the potential advantage of reducing the dosage and adverse side effects. The current understanding is that DCs use the plasma membrane to ingest antigens. However, the DCs’ remarkable capability to collect antigens from and across tight tissue spaces remains poorly understood. In a new study, the Hu group utilized fluorescent artificial antigens based on quantum dots developed in the Snee lab to visualize the massive membrane networks used by DCs for antigen uptake. By utilizing single-particle tracking, the study super-resolved delicate membrane fibers less than one hundredth the width of a human hair. The discovery suggests a new mechanism for the DC antigen uptake and enables enhanced vaccine designs to target this mechanism.

Read a copy of the report in Nano Letters!