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T cells are a specialized type of immune cell that effectively seek out and destroy cancer cells. Research has revealed the complex mechanical processes used by these cells to kill cancer cells more efficiently.

T cells form an intimate junction with the cancer cell, called a cytotoxic immunological synapse, where lytic granules containing perforin (proteins that punch holes in the target cells) and granzymes (which gain access via these holes and ultimately kill disease-causing cells) are released. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that T cells generate physical forces which stretch and bend the cancer cell membrane in a way that increases the likelihood of perforin piercing through it.

Collectively, these studies reveal the many layers of complexity involved in the process by which T cells destroy cancer cells, helping us further understand the power of our immune system.

[Dec.15, 2022: Sue Min Liu, University of New South Wales]

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