You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Scientists watch an immune system fight the flu in real time

Engadget Engadget 27/09/2016 Jon Fingas
© Provided by Engadget

To date, biologists have typically had to study the progress of a virus through indirect means, such as studying the antibodies -- actually tracking the viruses themselves has been difficult. However, researchers say they've found a way to follow the progress of a virus in real time. By using multiphoton microscopy in tandem with a laser and fluorescence, the team monitored influenza virus in a mouse's trachea (where the transluency made imaging possible) through the infection and immune system response.

As you might guess, the infection played out like a short war. The immune system's T-cells took a while to respond (about 5 days after initial infection), but they were merciless when they arrived, slowing down by the 7th day and methodically killing off infected cells. They even stayed around for a few days in a heightened state to keep watch for any new threats. This was all expected, but rare to see in action.

The live study has already taught scientists some lessons. A lower virus dose doesn't automatically lead to fewer T-cells fighting back, for one thing -- viruses may affect an immune system's response, but they don't define it. You may see far larger results in the future, though. Real-time data could lead to more effective treatments for viruses, triggering swifter, stronger immune responses. You might not have to spend ages grappling with that flu or cough.

PLOS Pathogens

More from Engadget

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon