How immune cells tag 'trash' for destruction | Futurity

Gobbling up bad bacteria isn’t the only critical job that phagocytes, a class of amoeba-like white blood cells, have in the human immune system. Trash collectors as well, they consume dead, dying, or abnormal cells to prevent potentially harmful toxins from spreading.

How these single-celled blobs recognize foreign invaders is relatively well understood, but how they identify which of the body’s own cells to destroy—essential for preventing autoimmune diseases and
removing potentially cancerous cells, for example—is more opaque. One mechanism thought to be crucial to the recognition of healthy or diseased cells is the ability of phagocytes to detect a molecule known as phosphatidylserine (PS) and this is detected by a phagocyte receptor TIM4.

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