Decision-making by lymphocytes

Year of award: 2017


  • Prof Simon Davis

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Our immune systems respond to viruses and other harmful threats by triggering the replication of those white blood cells that are best-suited to neutralising each specific threat. Remarkably, however, no-one properly understands how each white blood cell decides to respond, despite the importance of the mechanism.

For many years, we have studied the behaviour and functions of proteins present on the surfaces of white blood cells and it has been proposed that changes in their organisation are a key part of how immune responses start. Developments in microscopy mean that we can now finally see whether the proposed re-organisation takes place at the start of immune responses, allowing us to directly test this theory.

Having determined how they start, we will be much better placed to boost helpful immune responses against diseases such as cancer and block harmful ones that cause diseases such as diabetes.