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The search strategy of T-cells can inspire technology

Search strategies of living organisms or cells can help to develop of technology aimed at rescuing people, locating animals or detecting pathogens, among others. At the Centre d'Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB-CSIC) scientists work in this research field. In a recent work, they have studied the search strategy of T-cells to find pathogens.

 The searching strategy of T-cells can inspire technologyBefore the immune response is triggered, the T-cells must detect the presence of pathogens. How do they do it? A team of scientists has analyzed the strategy of the T-cells for detecting molecules that reveal the presence of pathogens such as virus, fungus or bacteria. As they explain in an article recently published in Science, these molecules are detected by contact with other cells based on movements of the T-cell membrane.

This work is part of the research project SUSE (Social Uses of Search Ecology: Stochastic Fundation and Experimental Research), led by the scientist Frederic Bartumeus, head of the Department of Continental Ecology ate the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes of the CSIC.

The work has been done in collaboration with the Pathology Department of the  Biological Imaging Center (San Francisco, EUA). The team from the EUA and led by Matthew F. Krummel work in the laboratory with T-cells, applying the knowledge based on empirical observations, physics theory and mathematical models of searching strategies at different levels.

This work is aimed at improving the efficiency of response of the immune system, and help developing more efficient nanorobots for therapies such as drug-delivery

In the long-run, this work is aimed at improving the efficiency of response of the immune system, and help developing more efficient nanorobots for therapies such as drug-delivery, in order to take the substances to the exact points of the body where they are needed. generally,

SUSE and the socials uses of ecology of search

The SUSE project is aimed at studying different biological strategies of search, going from cells to human mobility. Understanding the structural complexity and the mechanisms that generate the searching behavior is essential for different fields of science and they can be applied in biomedicine, psychology, criminology, neuromarketing… Bioinspired search strategies can also be applied for rescuing people or for estimating the population of endangered species.

Strategies when looking for food, partners, shelter or new habitats, require a tradeoff between using available information and exploring unknown lands to find unexpected things. Exploring these strategies to find new applications is the goal of the SUSE project.

The scientists study the strategies of simple organisms which have, nevertheless, complex enough behaviors, such as ants or worms. This is the first time they have had the chance to deeply analyze the searching movements at a subcellular level.

But they also work with people, through tests of visual search on screens and with an app specially designed to understand what stops people to be more efficient explorers.

Scentific articles of SUSE project:

Frederic Bartumeus, Daniel Campos, William S. Ryu, Roger Lloret-Cabot, Vicenç Méndez and Jordi Catalan. Foraging success under uncertainty: search tradeoffs and optimal space use. Ecology Letters, (2016) 19: 1299-1313.

Matthew F. Krummel, Frederic Bartumeus and Audrey Gérard. T cell migration, search strategies and mechanisms. Nature Reviews Immunology, (2016) 16(3): 193-201.

En Cai, Kyle Marchuk, Peter Beemiller, Casey Beppler, Matthew G. Rubashkin, Valerie M. Weaver, Bi-Chang Chen, Eric Betzig, Frederic Bartumeus and Matthew F. Krummel. Visualizing dynamic microvillar search and stabilization during ligand detection by T cells. Science, (2017) 356: (6338): eaal3118.