George Ashdown, Niall Geoghegan
Created | 2022

Neutrophils are immune cells that help form the first line of defence against invading pathogens. When the chips are down, they can weaponize their own DNA to trap and destroy these pathogens by forming neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs).

Using a lattice light-sheet microscope, George and Niall have captured a single neutrophil undergoing this dynamic process in three dimensions through time. Fluorescent dyes identify the neutrophil’s DNA (orange) and a structural protein called actin (cyan) which cells use to move and change shape.

This cutting-edge technique allows the study of multiple structures involved in NET formation. NETs are an important component of the immune system’s response to infection, but can also promote inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, cancer, and severe cases of COVID-19.

By studying this process in state-of-the-art detail, George and Niall are aiming to find treatments that can control NET formation to ensure this inflammatory process is kept in balance.