Bioethics Blogs

Cool Videos: Cytotoxic T Cells on Patrol

Cytotoxic T Cell Video screencapture

Wow! It’s one thing to know that the immune system has the power to destroy cancerous cells. But it’s quite another thing to see a cytotoxic T cell actually take out a cancer cell right before your eyes.

This amazing video was produced by Alex T. Ritter as part of Celldance 2014, an annual video series by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). To make this series happen in 2014, ASCB staff contacted cell biology labs known for their sophisticated imaging tools and techniques, asking them to submit proposals for videos. In return, ACSB provided some funding, post-production support from a professional videographer, and an original soundtrack from the up-and-coming Hollywood composer Ted Masur.

Ritter studies a roving, specialized component of our immune system called cytotoxic T cells. Their job is to seek out and destroy any foreign or detrimental cells—including cancer cells—that might be lurking in the body, a process that takes about 10 minutes from detection to death. These T cells literally convince a problem cell to commit suicide.

To make his microscopic blockbuster, Ritter called upon imaging skills he learned in two top-flight labs as part of the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. He now works in the intramural laboratory of cell biologist Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In England, he trained in the lab of cell biologist and immunologist Gillian Griffiths at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research. He says that both experiences were vital to making this video, as was his earlier training with Eric Betzig at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.